May 25, 2011

Creamy Penne with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Chicken

I've become a big fan of one-pan and skillet dinners.  They tend to be fast and easy to make, and the fact that everything is cooked in one pan cuts down on after-dinner clean-up.  Plus, cooking everything together tends to result in the various flavors being well-blended.   The Best 30-Minute Recipe contains several recipes of this sort, including one - Creamy Skillet Penne with Mushrooms and Asparagus - I used as the starting point for the recipe below.

The recipe published in The Best 30-Minute Recipes was a pretty good vegetarian recipe, but I wanted to add some protein as well.   I decided chicken would go well with the mushrooms, cream sauce and asparagus, so I played around with the ratios of some ingredients to work better with the addition of chicken and added the step of sauteing the chicken.  I also decided to add extra mushroom flavor by adding the water used to soak the porcini mushrooms to the dish.  

This dish came together quickly - you can do most of the rest of the prep work while sauteing the the chicken and the mushrooms - and was really, really tasty.    I'm not generally a big fan of cream-based sauces with pasta, but I liked how this sauce was not just creamy but also full of mushroom flavor.  The penne was likewise quite flavorful - an advantage of cooking it in the sauce - while the chicken and asparagus pieces were tender and tender-crisp, respectively.  The various parts of this dish blended together very nicely into an enjoyable meal.   I expect I'll be revisiting this recipe in the future.

Creamy Penne with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Chicken

yield = 4-5 servings

1             ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/4       pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into
                  bite-sized pieces
1/4          teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4          teaspoon table salt
8             ounces white (button) mushrooms, quartered
1             large shallot, minced
3             teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2       teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/2          cup white wine
3             cups water
1             cup heavy cream
12           ounces penne
1             bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch
1/2          cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 1 cup boiling water until softened, about 10 minutes.  Transfer porcini to a cutting board and dice.   Pour the water used to soak the mushrooms through a double layer of cheesecloth to catch any grit, then set the water aside.  Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. 

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides.  Transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet until shimmering, then add the button mushrooms.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned on most sides (8-9 minutes).  Add the minced porcini mushrooms, shallot, garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant (about 40 seconds).  Add the white wine and cook until the wine is reduced by half.

Add the water used to soak the mushrooms, an additional 3 cups water, cream and penne.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, until the penne is almost tender and the liquid has cooked down and thickened (about 12 minutes).  Stir in the chicken, then add the asparagus and cook until tender, another 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano, season with additional salt and pepper if desired and serve. 

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