Another week of cooking with Giada de Laurentiis rolls around at I Heart Cooking Clubs, and our theme this week is "Out of Italy", the mission - cook any Giada de Laurentiis recipe that is not Italian in origin. As I am still waiting for my copy of Giada's Kitchen to arrive (when you live at the bottom of the world, these things take time), I had a bit of a trawl through some of Giada's recipes on the Food Network website where I came across this recipe for Chicken and Shrimp with Pancetta Chimichurri from the "Rock the Block" episode of Giada at Home on Food Network.
Chimichurri is originally from Argentina and Uruguay, though I believe it also crops up in Nicaraguan and Mexican food, and is often used as a marinade for meats. Now let me tell you that I have never had chimichurri before, so I have nothing to compare it to, and have no idea what an authentic chimichurri should taste like. But somehow in my mind I always imagined that it would be quite a peppy and fiery kind of sauce. This version certainly isn't either of those things. That said, there was nothing wrong with it; in fact, I enjoyed it and it went perfectly with the chicken and shrimp - it didn't need to to more fiery or more peppy - just saying, if that's what you're expecting you're not going to find it here.
I served this with some Saffron Rice with Nuts, inspired by this recipe by Nigella Lawson for a Saffron-Scented Chicken Pilaf (minus the chicken), and a Citrus Salad from the California Light & Healthy episode of Giada at Home on Food Network.
All in all, this was a great dish, the kind of dish that is easy to make just for two or make for a crowd, and this one has definitely made it onto my list of "regulars". The only, slightly negative comment I would make is that, even though I am definitely in the "almost anything can be improved with bacon" camp, this was not the case here. The recipe calls for sprinkling some crispy pancetta (I used smoky bacon because that's what I had on hand) over the finished dish - I didn't find that this enhanced the dish in any way, either texturally or flavourwise and, almost but not quite, detracted from it ever so slightly. Maybe this was the case because I had quite a lot going on with the rice, but next time I will almost certainly leave it out - I really think it is just an unnecessary ingredient here, but you make your own judgement about that. If you make this I'd love to know what you think - bacon, or no bacon?
Chicken & Shrimp with Pancetta Chimichurri Recipe
Quantities are easily adjustable to serve as many people as you like - for each person allow:
1x boneless and skinless chicken breast (preferably free-range)
125g (4.5 oz) shrimp, peeled and deveined
flaky sea salt
freshly ground pepper
For Chimichurri (makes enough for 6-8 servings)
2 tablespoons olive oil
250g (8oz) pancetta, cut into small cubes (or smoky bacon, finely sliced)
3 cloves garlic
1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves (or 2 tablespoons dried oregano)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
flaky sea salt
freshly ground pepper
Firstly prepare the chimichurri. Put the garlic, parsley, oregano, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season to taste with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Preheat a grill pan over high heat.
Drizzle olive oil over the chicken and shrimp, sprinkle over some dried oregano, flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss well to coat everything thoroughly.
Once the pan is hot, grill the chicken until cooked through - about 5 or 6 minutes each side. Set aside to rest while you grill the shrimp until they turn pink and are cooked through - just 1 or 2 minutes each side.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat, add the pancetta, and cook until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Slice the chicken on the diagonal and arrange on a serving platter with the shrimp. Drizzle with the chimichurri, and sprinkle the pancetta over the top.
I served this over the top of the Saffron Rice recipe which follows. This was a great accompaniment, but you could just as easily serve this with plain steamed rice or some pasta.
Saffron Rice with Nuts
Inspired by a recipe by Nigella Lawson
A small handful each of roasted almonds, roasted cashews and pistachios
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups vegetable stock, heated
pinch saffron threads
large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Coarsely chop nuts - not too much - you still want them in fairly recognisable sized pieces.
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over high heat, and once hot add the rice to the pan and stir until all the grains are well coated with the oil. Add the hot stock and saffron to the pan, bring up to the boil, put the lid on the pan, and turn heat down to very low. Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through and fluffy - about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, add the nuts and chopped flat-leaf parsley, and gently stir through using a fork. Serve immediately.
Any simple green salad would be great with this dish, but I had some lovely fresh fennel from the Farmers Market that I wanted to use, so found this citrus salad was a great choice. I loved this salad and know that I will be making it many times over during the next few months while fennel is around. The original recipe called for the inclusion of some toasted walnuts which I left out since I already had lots of nuts going into the rice dish. Having now tasted the salad I think that if you were going to put any nuts at all in this, which quite frankly I don't think it needs, I would use toasted pine nuts instead - just don't think walnuts is quite right for this, but feel free to try. On the other hand, I can imagine that some black olives and fried haloumi would make great additions to this salad to serve on its own as a light meal or as an accompaniment to a simple fish dish such as a piece of grilled salmon. Also the original recipe called for just one orange and one grapefruit - I found that the proportion of fruit to fennel was not quite right for my liking, so I also added one tangelo. Feel free to adjust this to your own tastes.
1 large orange, peel and all white pith removed
1 pink grapefruit, peel and all white pith removed
1 tangelo, peel and all white pith removed
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
flaky sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts (optional)
Place a sieve over a medium sized bowl. Hold the peeled orange over the bowl and, using a sharp knife, cut down between the membrane and segment of fruit on each side to separate the fruit entirely from the membrane, and let the fruit segments fall into the sieve. Squeeze the membrane over the bowl, extracting as much juice from it as you can. Repeat with the grapefruit, and then with the tangelo, in each case also squeezing all of the juice out of the membrane.
Reserve the juice in the bowl, and put the fruit segments from the sieve into another bowl, along with the sliced fennel.
Using a food processor or blender, blend together the extra virgin olive oil, basil, and 3 tablespoons of the reserved citrus juice. Season to taste with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and pour over the salad, tossing gently to combine. Add the toasted nuts if using.
Interested in getting to know Giada a bit better? Then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all been cooking up ....
.... or check out Giada's Kitchen and many of her other titles, available from Amazon, Book Depository UK and Fishpond NZ