Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chicken Leftovers, Day 3

I may or may not have ruined my dinner by watching some horrible show on fast food, which then made me really crave a chocolate shake... which I then went to my kitchen to create BECAUSE I COULD! And that is yet another thing I can't remember the last time I had. 
So good.

But, there is still leftover chicken, and attention must be paid, and tired hubbies fed.

Night 3 of chicken leftovers, and what can you do that won't overcook your chicken but will make it different from the night before so your husband/wife/spouse/SO/roommate will eat it?

Tonight I shall make a twist on a dish that is usually served with shrimp, but tonight will be leftover chicken, because Mike doesn't really enjoy shrimp, and also, as I mentioned, I still have leftover chicken! Plus I found one stalwart zucchini in my crisper and it deserves a good use.

It's fairly simple, and I'm going to try to walk you through the steps without forgetting any of them... (Janet, I'm trying. Really.)
Chop your zucchini into about 1/2" quarters, and add to a pan w/ evoo on medium-high heat. The objective here is to get some nice browning on your veg. Season with salt.

For the sauce: when the zucchini is just about done browning, mince a shallot (or small onion, but I use the milder shallot whenever I can because I'm not big on onion flavors) and toss into the pan w/ the zucchini and evoo. Once that is translucent, add 2 minced cloves of garlic (I use my Microplane to make that easier.) and sauté another minute or so, until the garlic has sweat out a bit.
Then I throw in a 16oz. can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and re-season with salt, dried oregano, and maybe even some dried basil if I have no fresh on hand (really you should have fresh basil to finish this dish properly.) I then throw in about a palm-full of Old Bay seasoning, stir, and let the sauce simmer for about 10 min or so to let the flavors combine.

At this point, put some water on to boil so you can cook your pasta. I use capellini whenever I make this sauce, so I can toss the pasta in at the last minute since it only takes 2 min to cook. If you have a longer cooking pasta (since I'm using chicken, a penne rigate would work well) adjust your prep-time.

*Always heavily salt your pasta water before dropping the noodles in to flavor the pasta itself (Yes it makes a difference!) but if you are using a stainless steel pot, do not drop the salt until the water is boiling. Too early and you can cause scarring/pitting/discoloration on your pot, etc...

At this point I'd dice up my leftover chicken breast meat into bite-sized chunks. When I drop the pasta, I'll toss the chicken into the tomato sauce to heat through. The last touch on the sauce is a splash of cream to turn it pink and make it creamy. (Eyeball this to your desired shade.) Cook another 2-5 minutes.

Check your seasonings again!!!
This sauce should have a healthy kick to it from the Old Bay Seasoning (it contains red pepper and the like), but the cream can absorb a lot of it when you add it at the end, so double check and re-season as necessary. That is a general rule for anything you cook. Season in layers, at each step.

When your pasta is done, toss it in the pot with the sauce and chicken and let them meld another minute or two. And if you're classy, serve the finished dishes with a chiffonade of fresh basil.

*You can also be a classy person but be told by your errand-running hubby that both Gourmet Garage & Gristedes are out of fresh basil. WTF is that about?!?! Way to ruin my dinner presentation, chain food stores. Must get the aerogarden back up and running...

Other possible additions/swaps:
Toss some capers into your sauce at the end for a salty bite. (I really wish I'd had these tonight, as I think it would have been the perfect finishing touch this time around.)
You can substitute eggplant for the zucchini. In fact, when I learned the original version of this dish (from my mom), it was made with eggplant, and I made the switch to zucchini. But either vegetable will essentially melt into the sauce anyway.

And yes, this will leave you with leftover sauce. But I always cook expecting leftovers, because then I have something to eat for lunch the next day.

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