Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spicy Chicken and Shrimp Pasta

My Spicy Chicken and Shrimp Pasta
(inspired by my many years at Outback Steakhouse)

I think it was my extreme desire to please that lead me to apply at Outback Steakhouse when I was 15 years old. Well... that, and the food. Outback was one of those places that my family went to on special occasions, and though I often ate delicious steaks and sweet potatoes, every once-in-a-while, I would throw tradition out the window and get a pasta.

Back in the day, the two main pasta dishes at Outback Steakhouse were the Chicken and Shrimp Pasta, which was basically Outback's version of Fettuccine Alfredo, and then, there was their Cajun-inspired, spicy Toowoomba Pasta (my dad's and hubby's favorite) made with Shrimp and Crawfish in a spicy, slightly "tomato-ish" cream sauce.

I absolutely hated the Toowooba Pasta, not because I grew up playing with crawfish and keeping them as pets (which I totally did), but because I absolutely despised spicy food. Thankfully though, and much to the hubby's surprise, my aversion to spicy food is slowly disappearing with every shake of the cayenne pepper bottle and every slice of jalapeno jack cheese.

Anyway, back to the task at hand... Essentially, this recipe is loosely based on the Toowoomba Pasta, and the only thing this recipe has in common with Outback's other pasta dish is the fact that I add chicken to my recipe because chicken is cheap and easy to get a hold of year-round. I absolutely love crawfish and will include them in this recipe when available, but usually, I just use chicken and shrimp.

Let me warn you before I begin explaining my steps—this recipe does take a bit of time, and it probably took me a good four or five tries to get it down to a science, taking this recipe from 60-90 minutes of prep/cooking time down to 30 minutes, but you have my promise that if you love rich, creamy, ridiculously spicy, and totally fattening pasta, you will not be let down!

Here's everything you need minus the pasta,
plus a shot of my "electronic" cookbook

I divide this recipe into four groups: the sauce, the "add-ins", the meat, and the pasta. Separating the nearly 20 ingredients makes it easier for me to prepare this complex dish.

First things first, the sauce base

First thing I do, to prepare for the cooking of the sauce, is grab all of my sauce ingredients: cream, butter, ketchup (bear with me, I promise it's worth it), garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. I mix all of the seasonings together, dump the ketchup on top, and lay the mixture, cream, and butter aside. I make the sauce last because you have to really give it all of your attention. You don't want to ruin your sauce because you thought the onions were burning.

Then, I cut up the green onions and place them aside; cut up the mini portobello mushrooms and lay them aside; and cut up the onion (or buy the pre-chopped onion, which is exactly what I do know because it saves at least 5 minutes of prep time and a few tears) and set aside.

At this point, I put on the pot of water for the pasta. I've used every type of pasta imaginable for this dish. I've made it with linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti, penne, fusilli (corkscrew), and bowtie pasta. The hubby prefers the penne, fusilli, and bowtie pastas over the long pastas, but I love this dish with long, thick fettuccine, personally. Follow the cooking instructions for your desired pasta.

Once everything is chopped and the water for the pasta is on the stove, I place the onions, garlic, and mushrooms in a skillet with some butter and Almond (or Grapeseed) Oil because it's better to cook with over medium high and high heat than olive oil—something about olive oil releasing all kinds of toxins when cooked with high heat, but don't quote me, I just read that somewhere.

Mmmm sauteed onion and mushroom

While, the onions, garlic, and mushrooms are caramelizing, I use this time to prepare the meat, which again can be any combination of chicken, shrimp, crawfish, and/or scallops. This particular time, I used just chicken and shrimp, but I am definitely splurging for the scallops next time. I think that would just be absolutely amazing!

Anywho, I de-tail/de-vein the shrimp then cut them into smaller pieces (or you can leave them whole; doesn't matter), and set them aside. Then, I take the chicken breasts and slice them up into smallish chunks for quick cooking, and mainly because once the food is prepared, I just want to shovel it in my mouth and not have to worry about cutting up the chicken, but as I mentioned with the shrimp, you can also cook the chicken breasts whole.

After my meat choices are sliced and ready, I finish up the onions/mushrooms and set them aside (they will be thrown into the meat later). Using the same skillet (because this helps infuse the flavor of the dish in the meats), I first saute the chicken with a little butter and Almond Oil until it's completely cooked. Once the chicken is cooked, I remove it from the heat and set aside.

Now, it's time for the seafood. I saute the seafood in the same skillet with more butter and Almond Oil, and once it's completely cooked, I go ahead and dump the chicken and onions/mushrooms into the skillet, turn off the heat, and set aside. You could cook the chicken and shrimp together, but I find that doing so makes everything taste like shrimp, and I enjoy the depth of flavor this dish has when each meat has its own unique flavor.

Chicken and Shrimp before adding the onions/mushrooms

Now that your pasta is nearly finished cooking and your meat is ready and set aside, it's time to make the sauce. First, you want to melt the butter. Once the butter is completely melted, let it sizzle for a minute before slowly adding the cream. Pour the cream slowly with one hand while whisking with the other, so that the butter and cream combine a little easier for you.

Sauce Preparation

Once the cream and butter have combined and began to show signs of simmering (about 3 minutes), scoop in all of your seasonings and ketchup. Continue whisking constantly to ensure the ketchup combines properly. Bring sauce to a boil, while whisking, and once it begins boiling, turn the heat down to medium low and let simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally so the ingredients stay combined.

As you can see, the sauce has a very orange tint to it with red specs

Once the sauce has been simmering for 5 minutes, turn off the heat, add in the freshly chopped green onion, and begin assembling your plates (pasta, then meat, then sauce, then cheese). I enjoy serving this spicy pasta dish with a crisp white wine like a Pinot Grigio or a "non-oaky" Chardonnay, but of course, it's just as delicious with a tall glass of sweet tea.

Finished product!

Heather's Spicy Chicken and Shrimp Pasta
Inspired by Outback Steakhouse's Toowoomba Pasta


- ½ cup Unsalted Butter (plus 2 tbsp)
- 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1 ½ tbsp Ketchup
- 1 ½ tsp Paprika
- 1 ½ tsp Garlic Powder
- 1-3 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- To Taste Fresh Cracked Black Pepper and Salt

- ½ cup Green Onions, chopped
- ½ cup Baby Portobello Mushrooms, chopped
- 3-4 cloves Fresh Garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp Almond Oil
- 1 pat Unsalted Butter

- ½ lb Fresh Shrimp (rinsed in cold water, deveined, detailed)
- ½ lb Chicken (2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
- ½ lb Fresh Crawfish and/or Scallops (if available)
- 3 cloves Fresh Garlic, minced
- 2 pats Unsalted Butter

Pasta and Finishes:
- 16 oz. Pasta of Choice
- Sprinkle Fresh Parmigiano Reggiano or Asiago Cheese


- Cook pasta as the directions state, and set aside.
- Cut green onions and set aside.
- Cut or food process mushrooms and sauté on low heat with fresh garlic, throw in some butter and cook until there are soft. Set aside.
- Cut up and cook the chicken in oil and a little butter and seasonings like fresh cracked black pepper and salt; and set aside.
- Cut up and cook the seafood in a little more oil and butter.
- Once the seafood is finished cooking, remove from heat and add the chicken, and sauteed veggies, and set aside.


- In large sauce pan, melt stick of butter over Medium Low heat (3-4 on dial).
- Once butter is melted, add in the heavy whipping cream, whisking continuously.
- Whisk in ketchup, paprika, garlic, onion powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.
- Bring sauce to a boil, whisking occasionally, then reduce down to simmer for 5 minutes, continue to whisk occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn and everything stays combined.
- Once the sauce has simmered for 5 minutes, turn off heat, and dump in the green onions.

- On a plate (or in a bowl), place some pasta, then add the meat on top, cover with sauce, and sprinkle with a little cheese.
- Serve with a nice crisp glass of white wine or your favorite beverage.


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