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Creamy Penne w/ Chicken & Smoked Sausage {HUNGRY book tour}

Creamy Penne w/ Chicken & Smoked Sausage {HUNGRY book tour} |

HUNGRY: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love & The Power of Good Food

author: Darlene Barnes
genre: Memoir
publisher: Hyperion
source: TLC Book Tours
"foodie" elements: YES
hard cover: 272 pages

random excerpt:  Some of what made that year hard for me was me.  I was becoming like the women relatives I remembered from my childhood who would spend all day making Thanksgiving dinner and then get mad at the diners who were done in ten minutes, not nearly as thankful as they goddamn well should have been. (p.86)

summary/synopsis (from the TLC website):  Newly arrived in Seattle, Darlene Barnes stumbles on a job ad for a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington, Seattle, campus, a prospect most serious food professionals would automatically reject.  But Barnes envisions something other than kegs and corn dogs; she sees an opportunity to bring fresh, real food to an audience accustomed to “Asian Surprise” and other unidentifiable casseroles dropped by a catering service.  And she sees a chance to reinvent herself, by turning a maligned job into meaningful work of her own creation: “I was the new girl and didn’t know or care about the rules.”

In HUNGRY: What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me about Life, Love and the Power of Good Food naively expecting a universally appreciative audience,  Barnes finds an exasperatingly challenging environment: the kitchen is nasty, the basement is scary, and the customers are not always cooperative.  Undaunted, she gives as good as she gets with these foul-mouthed and irreverent—but also funny and sensitive—guys.  Her passion for real food and her sharp tongue make her kitchen a magnet for the brothers, new recruits, and sorority girls tired of frozen dinners.

Laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, HUNGRY offers a female perspective on the real lives of young men, tells a tale of a woman’s determined struggle to find purpose, and explores the many ways that food feeds us.

my thoughts/review:  I should start this off by saying that foodie memoirs are one of my favorite genres.  There's something about being immersed in somebody else's food-centered world that I find comforting.  I like the reinforcement that "I'm not the only one".  HUNGRY abounds with Barnes' sarcasm, bad attitude, and her passion for food - and feeding the bodies and souls of those lives she comes into contact with on a daily basis.

On several occasions, I found myself laughing out loud.  And once, in the doctor's office (because that's often where I find myself getting the bulk of a book read this time of year due to back-to-school well checks and such) I cried.  And it was a good cry, that warranted a nose-blowing.

Though Barnes' and I are totally different, we're also very much the same.  I was able to identify with her, and go along for a quick read through these events in her life.  Plus, she quotes not only one of my favorite childhood books (Ramona the Pest), but also one of my favorite adulthood books (A Confederacy of Dunces).  I recommend this book for foodies, mothers, and those who enjoy a good memoir.

P.S. - there's recipes!

photo by Lloyd K Barnes
about the author: Darlene Barnes has been food and word passionate all her life, cooking professionally for the last eleven years.  Born in the New Orleans area, she spent most of her pre-college years in London, eventually moving to Canada with her husband and graduating from Queen’s University with a BA in English.  Since 2006, she has cooked for the men of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, offering fresh food, tough love and largely unsolicited advice to her college age customers.  She has blogged about her experiences at Hungry and now at; she lives with her husband in Seattle, where her two grown sons also reside.

further info: facebook | twitter

recipe inspired by the book: There were countless mentions of mouthwatering dishes in the pages of this book.  And so many directions that I could have gone in the kitchen.  But in the end, it was a dish that Darlene listed as one of her "most requested" in chapter 12 that I decided to make.  I cut down her Creamy Penne w/ Chicken & Smoked Sausage, to feed my family - still ravenous, but not quite as large.  The creamy sauce is studded with chunks of slightly spicy chicken and smoky sausage - I could tell after one bite (and one empty baking dish) that it's going to be requested on a regular basis in my house, too.

Creamy Penne w/ Chicken & Smoked Sausage

Creamy Penne w/ Chicken & Smoked Sausage {HUNGRY book tour} |

by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Keywords: bake entree chicken pasta sausage cream American

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
    for the pasta
    • 1 pound penne pasta
    • ~2 pounds chicken tenders
    • olive oil
    • Cajun seasoning (recipe follows)
    • kosher or sea salt
    • 8 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
    • 2 ounces unsalted butter
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
    • 3-1/2 cups whole milk
    • 2-1/4 cups heavy cream
    • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella (or a white Italian blend)
    • freshly grated Parmesan
    for the Cajun seasoning
    • 1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika
    • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
    • 1 tablespoon onion powder
    • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 1 tablespoon dried basil
    • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
    • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne
    • 1/2 tablespoon celery seed
    Cook the pasta until just al dente (according to package instructions). Drain and place into a large bowl; toss with a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking together. Set aside.

    Preheat oven to 375° F.

    Place the chicken in a large bowl or baggie, drizzle with a little olive oil, some Cajun seasoning (to taste), and about a half tablespoon of salt; squish it all around until the chicken is coated. Heat a large, deep-sided cast-iron (or non-stick) skillet and saute until just cooked through. Bread it up a bit, if you like.  Add to bowl with pasta.

    Add sausage to the pan and saute for a few minutes, until it starts to turn brown in spots and releases some of its fat. Add to the bowl.

    Add the butter to the same skillet, and once it has melted, stir in the flour and mustard powder. Let cook for a minute or two, and then slowly whisk in the milk. Whisk in the cream until there are no lumps. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer until thickened. Season with 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt, a few good grates of pepper, and additional Cajun seasoning, if you wish. Add half of the mozzarella cheese and toss everything to combine.

    Pour into a large baking dish (a 9"x13" or 11"x11" should do). Scatter the remaining mozzarella over the top, and grate some Parmesan over the whole thing. Bake until bubbly and golden in spots, 15-20 minutes.

    for the Cajun Seasoning (yield: 1 cup)
    Combine all of the ingredients and store in an airtight jar. You won't use all of this, you will have plenty leftover.

    -adapted from HUNGRY by Darlene Barnes
    Creamy Penne w/ Chicken & Smoked Sausage {HUNGRY book tour} |

    tlc-tour-host I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.