Wednesday, February 08, 2012

What I'm Cooking...Lemon Parmesan Chicken and Penne

Last weekend, while were in Palm Springs, we picked up a big bag of fresh lemons. We picked these from the tree in the front yard of our friends home.  We love fresh lemons. MS decided to make dessert with these and I was going to make dinner.  I initially thought of making a Lemon Chicken Piccata, but I couldn't find just the right recipe at first.  Then I decided to go a bit more unhealthy and make a cream based pasta sauce with lemon as a base flavor.

I've never made a cream sauce before. I traditionally I like to cook things that are a bit more healthy -- this obviously means I'm not a cream sauce guy. I've made homemade pasta sauces many times before -- I love my Bolognese sauce and my pesto (made with basil I've grown on my lanai) is pretty damn tasty too.

The full recipe is at the bottom of this post.  I found the original online and realized, just by looking at it, it needed some tweaks. I started by cutting it in half, increased the herb mixture and reduced the cream cheese and some of the cream.

Honestly, this recipe was good, but really not all that flavorful.  Maybe I salt my food too much, but this recipe really needed some more salt and pepper.  Both dinner guests did add more salt and pepper (and extra parmigiana too) to their portions as well.  Everyone also had second helpings (and thirds for one guest).

I also loathe leftovers, but this recipe made so much food, I decided to keep it in the fridge for a bit. I heated this pasta up with a quick turn in the microwave the next day and it was just a bit better than it was originally.  I still had to add more salt and pepper though.

Lemon Parmesan Chicken and Penne

2 pounds chicken breast – pounded flat to flattened to 1/2"
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon dried basil
4.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1.5 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1.5 cloves garlic, minced.
2 tablespoons flour
4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1.5 eggs whisked
1.5 cups heavy cream
Zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1.5 pound of penne pasta cooked
Olive oil

1. Season the chicken with the garlic powder, dried basil and a 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into a deep, wide pan over medium high. Once hot, brown both sides of all the chicken breasts, approximately 30 seconds per side, and lay the meat on a baking sheet. Add more olive oil to the pan if necessary to prevent sticking. Slide into a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

2. In the same pan used to cook the chicken, add the butter and melt completely until it begins to sizzles. Drop in the shallot and garlic, tossing to coat. Cook the shallot and garlic for 1-2 minutes before stirring in the flour. Stir constantly to form a buttery paste, cooking for another 2-3 minutes until a toasty brown roux forms.

3. Mix the cream cheese into the buttery flour, then stir in the sour cream until smooth. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Scoop about 1/4 cup of this mixture into the whisked eggs and combine them very well, then pour the egg liquid back into the large pan of sauce. Continue to stir.

4. Next, add the heavy cream and reduce the heat to medium low, continuously stirring all the while. Cook the sauce for another 3-4 minutes without allowing it to come to a boil. If it begins to bubble, reduce the heat slightly.

5. Finally, sprinkle the lemon zest and parmesan into the sauce. Cook another 6-8 minutes, reducing the heat again if necessary.

6. While the sauce continues to thicken, slice the chicken breasts into thin strips and drop them into the sauce. Once all of the chicken is in the pan, remove from heat. Pour everything over the cooked penne and toss well to coat. Serve immediately.

Do you make full on cream sauce regularly, or do you "cheat", but just adding cream and cooking it down? Do my recipes seem to be bland to you or do they seem to be over salted?  Do you love left over pasta or loath reheated meals as much as I do?

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