What to do with leftover roasted chicken breasts?
I roasted a couple of chickens the other night and will write about roasting chickens another time. I thought as long as I was roasting one whole chicken; I might as well roast two and use the meat from the second chicken for something else. And as long as I was going to roast chicken, I might as well roast a bunch of vegetables too.
We ate part of the first chicken one night with the vegetables and wanted to use the leftovers for another meal so I looked to see what I had in my refrigerator and pantry and decided to make a Penne with Chicken & Peas in a Cream Sauce. I basically had everything I needed in stock thus avoiding another trip to the supermarket. Not that I don’t enjoy hanging out in the supermarket but two or three times a week is enough.
I put together a recipe and it was good but thought it needed a little more flavor help so I wrote to my friend Chef Ricco, who happens to be working in India right now starting a restaurant, and asked what I could have done to make this recipe better. The recipe below is a combination of what I came up with and Chef Ricco’s suggestions.
Roast Chicken Alternatives
If you don’t feel like roasting whole chickens, you can either buy already roasted chickens at the supermarket or use uncooked chicken breasts that you cook in the pan yourself. The advantage of cooking raw chicken is extra flavor you’ll get from sautéing the chicken (see fond on my Pan Sauces page).
I hope you enjoy it and please write and make your own suggestions or comments.
Penne with Chicken & Peas in a Cream Sauce
1/2 lb. penne pasta, cooked to al dente
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoons butter
2 thin slices from a large red onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced (Ricco suggested using roasted red peppers for more flavor and adding them toward the end of the recipe)
¼ cup white wine or brandy
1 chicken breast, cut up into pieces (cooked or uncooked)
1 cup half and half
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 cup frozen peas
Grated cheese like Parmigiano or Romano or you could even try some crumbled Roquefort cheese
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
How To Prepare At Home
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the oil and butter. When hot but not smoking, add the onion and diced pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine or brandy and continue cooking until most of the wine has cooked off. This will add another layer of flavor.
Season the already cut up cooked chicken with some freshly ground pepper and add it to the pan to reheat for about one minute.
Add the half and half, nutmeg, parsley and peas being sure to mix together with a wooden spoon. Raise the heat to medium-high but as soon as the half and half comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium or medium-low and reduce the sauce to desired consistency (thickness).
When the sauce is just the way you like it, add some freshly grated cheese or try the crumbled up Roquefort. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta but reserve a few tablespoons of the pasta water to add to the sauce if the sauce appears to be too thick. This thins out the sauce while giving it a little flavor from the cooked pasta.
Add the pasta to the saucepan; toss well and serve.
Uncooked Chicken Method
If you are using uncooked chicken, you'll start by sautéing the chicken first, before the onions and peppers. So cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces and sauté them in butter and olive oil. Cook until almost done but not all the way. You can finish cooking the chicken when you return it to the pan otherwise you risk overcooking it.
Remove the chicken from the pan, add the onion and pepper and follow the rest of the recipe above.
An alternative would be to sauté the chicken breast whole, let it rest while you are making the sauce and cut it up just before adding it back to the pan. I don't think it makes much difference but if you try it both ways, please let us know which you like better.
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