Chef JRodi brings a bit of Europe to Texas.
By Allie Justis, Photos courtesy of Chef JRodi
Jen Rodriguez, otherwise known as Chef JRodi, is the executive chef, founder and owner of 3 Small Plates LLC, and she has been finding new and interesting ways to blend her love for European food with her Southern roots right here in Austin.
At 3 Small Plates, Chef JRodi and her team of culinary specialists cater a wide variety of dishes with European flair as well as some classic American meals. Catering to parties as large as 40 or even creating boxes to be enjoyed at home, she gives her dishes everything she’s got.
After spending years overseas with her husband in the military, Chef JRodi wanted to show Austin the endless possibilities these unique flavors and experiences have to offer.
“What I wanted to do was bring that European class and flavor to you by sitting you down, laying the napkin in your lap,” says JRodi. “It’s all about taking this culinary journey. I want you to feel like when you stand back up, you will have that feeling that you have been someplace by eating my food.”
Above all, JRodi says providing the food is only the first step in creating a worthwhile experience for her customers. She is determined to surprise at every step of the food journey that she takes them on, and for her it is a privilege to have that opportunity.
“It’s all worth it.”
“Because it’s never about me. It’s about serving our clients and making the most for them. If we’re saying we’re taking them on a culinary journey, we want to put in every effort. Whatever we have, we’re going to put it all on the table.”
With the chicken and penne pasta recipe she is sharing, Chef JRodi says the best way to make the most of this dish is to work ahead. With the chicken used in the dish, she says poultry from the farmer’s market will always have the edge over store-bought chicken. If you marinate that chicken in your favorite white or red wine overnight, it will come out even more flavorful and tender when it’s time to cook it.
Chicken and Penne Pasta
For the chicken
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons seasoning salt
½ tablespoon pepper
¼ teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Pinch of sea salt
2-4 whole chicken breasts
(we used Smith & Smith Farms)
¼ cup of wine
For the sauce
2 drizzles of extra virgin olive oil
1 extra large clove of garlic, chopped
½ cup of onions, diced
½ cup of red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
½ cup of wine
4-5 medium San Marzano tomatoes, diced
½ cup of chicken or veggie stock
Pinch of fresh basil
For the pasta
16 oz. penne pasta
½ cup of feta cheese or Italian blend
1-2 ladles of pasta water
1-2 tablespoons of butter
½ cup of shiitake mushrooms, sliced, stems removed
Handful of fresh basil
- Place a medium pot on the stove and bring water to a medium rapid boil. Then preheat the oven to 400°.
- In a bowl, mix together the seasonings for the chicken.
- Wash and pat dry chicken breast. Sprinkle the seasoning mix on both sides of chicken and place the breasts in a shallow glass baking dish, flat-side down. Carefully pour 1/4 cup of wine off the side of chicken, taking care not to wash away the seasonings. The chicken should not float. (Note: If you choose to you can marinate overnight, otherwise bake right away.)
- On parchment paper, roast the chicken, uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until brown and easy to cut through. Chicken should not be dry and tough. Set chicken aside and allow to rest until cool enough to touch. (Note: Vine veggies may be used in place of chicken. Roast veggies prior to submerging into warm sauce to prevent it from breaking. Dice veggies. Season, sprinkle, then drizzle with oil.)
- In a pan, drizzle a small amount of oil in a figure 8. When the oil sizzles, add the garlic, onion and bell pepper and sauté until al dente (translucent) at medium to low heat. Stir to loosen any sticky bits. Add wine to deglaze the pan, allowing the ingredients to simmer. Gradually sprinkle in seasoning for the chicken.
- Reduce wine to half, add tomatoes and chicken stock. Sprinkle on chicken seasoning, plus add a pinch of fresh basil. Bring to a medium to low boil. Sprinkle seasoning. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Add pasta to water and stir with a wooden spoon to loosen and prevent clumping. Lay spoon over the pot to prevent it from boiling over. Once the pasta comes to a rapid boil (8-12 minutes), lower the temperature. Pasta will continue to cook from the heated water. Test pasta after 4 minutes; it should have a bite (a visible white line in the circumference of the pasta shell). Turn off heat. Pasta should not be soft and mushy. Drain pasta, but leave 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- When the chicken has cooled, slice into medallions or small rounds. Fold pasta into sauce, adjust chicken seasonings until well-blended.
- Add the feta or Italian-blend cheese. If the sauce is too loose, add 1/4 cup of pasta water a little at a time and 1 tablespoon of butter. Sauce will be loose, more of a broth rather than a thick tomato sauce. All the flavor and goodness are locked in the penne. Lower flame, simmer to combine flavors.
- Fold shiitakes in with the chicken to incorporate. Simmer to desired sauce thickness, adjust with additional pasta water or stock. Fold in half of the basil.