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Lissa’s Recipe File: Chicken Penne alla Vodka

Posted by Lissa on July 20, 2009

Hmph.  I wouldn’t call it a Domestication FAIL — I do have a whole category of that, you know — but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it, either.  Well, that’s what happens the first time you make a new recipe (shrug).

Got this from a friend of mine (my comments in italics)

Prep time: ~15 minutes (yeah f*@%ing right!!!  Maybe YOU can mince two large shallots and a whole head of garlic in fifteen minutes.  Not so much me.  If you’ve got a sous-chef or you’re trying out for Iron Chef America you MIGHT manage in 25.  Maybe.)

Cooking time: ~30-45 minutes (closer to 30 than 45, if it helps)


  • 1.25lbs boneless, skinless chicken – cubed
  • X cloves of garlic – very finely chopped
  • X shallots – very finely chopped (garlic and shallots to taste)
  • Two large cans petite diced tomatoes – drained (really, really drain these suckers — I mean pour them into a strainer and press gently with a spoon.  Just up-turning them and shaking will not do the job.)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes – a little or a lot (I used one tbsp or so and couldn’t taste it, so I sprinkled more.  That was a mistake.  Sticking with one tbsp next time!)
  • Basil (yeah, so, this basil never shows up in the recipe instructions below.  Add it or don’t add it, knock yourself out.)
  • Olive oil (about three times round the pan)
  • ¼-1/2 cups of vodka
  • 1 1lb box Penne
  • 1-2 cups heavy cream (unless you’re cooking for Mike, who really dislikes cream sauces.  Hmph.  I held myself to about a quarter cup.)


Add olive oil to large skillet – warm on low/medium

Sauté garlic and shallots – brown very lightly – DO NOT BURN (because there’s nothing sadder in a kitchen than to spend fifteen minutes carefully mincing garlic only to burn the whole mess.  No, didn’t happen this time, but has happened in the past!)

Add tomatoes – sauté for a decent while over medium heat

Add vodka – simmer down (yes, simmer down) until at least half in volume (YOU simmer down.  Schmuck.)

Add red pepper flakes to taste

Start penne in boiling water – keep for ten minutes  (box says eleven minutes, but what do I know. . . )

Add chicken to the now medium hot pan, at the same time as the pasta – until cooked (DO NOT COVER!!  I was afraid the chicken wouldn’t cook through, so I covered the pan for a few minutes.  When I lifted the lid some wicked kitchen elf had snuck over and added an entire cup of water to my sauce!  . . . at least, that’s what it looked like.  Boo!)

When penne is finished drain, add to pan

Add cream to pan over very low heat, stir!

Serves 4-6 people

The result?  Not quite a meh, but I wouldn’t call it a yay.  The watery-ness of the sauce was kind of disappointing; I almost forgot to drain the tomatoes at all, and shaking them quickly over the sink just didn’t cut it.  The dish wasn’t TOO spicy, but adding that second helping of red pepper flakes meant that you didn’t really taste the minced garlic and shallots – a great pity.  (They smelled absolutely killer while VERY lightly browning, seriously.)

Oh well!  For a first experiment, it was Okay.  I’ll heat up the leftovers using a saucepan, which should help evaporate some of that extra liquid.  Next time will be better!

Oh, I almost forgot — serve with fava beans and a nice Chianti.  (Evil grin)  No, no, just serve with some green veggies and whatever wine you like.  Enjoy!

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