The Chicken Penne recipe is a love triangle with a happy ending. Penne pasta with grilled chicken strips, smothered in a cumin-rich cream sauce, topped with herb-glazed walnuts is a winning combination of flavors and textures.
Penne is a good pasta choice for this
recipe; that wonderful sauce gets inside and out. And you'll find that it
works well for a dinner party because penne is "stab-able" and
bite-size, neater than spaghetti, for instance. No twirling, no
1 pound penne pasta
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (halves, about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup peanut or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups heavy cream
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup chicken broth or bouillon
4 tablespoons butter, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Rosemary Walnuts, below
To make the Cumin Cream, heat the heavy cream in a saucepan over high heat, stirring almost constantly, until it begins to reduce. Whisk in the mustard, cumin, garlic and chicken broth. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While the water is heating, flatten the chicken breasts slightly and slice into 1/4-inch strips. Combine the oil and cumin and brush the chicken pieces with it. Salt and pepper them to taste and place them on a broiler pan. Preheat the broiler.
Cook the pasta al dente, until tender but not mushy. While the pasta is cooking, broil the chicken until cooked through, 2 or 3 minutes on each side.
To serve, dish a portion of pasta onto each plate, lay several chicken strips on top and spoon warmed Cumin Cream to taste over all. Garnish with a sprinkling of Rosemary Walnuts.
The Rosemary Walnuts make this dish, but they're also terrific on their own as a party snack. Double or triple the recipe, though.
1-1/2 cups walnut halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Combine all ingredients but the walnut halves in a small bowl. Stir in the walnuts and coat well. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 325° oven until golden, about 15-20 minutes. Stir once or twice during baking. Serve warm or cool them and store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Rosemary Walnuts keep well in an air-tight container for a week or more. The Cumin Cream can be prepared a day ahead, or more, and reheated when needed. The cream cheese part of the Strawberry Parfaits can be made any time in the day and layered with the fresh strawberries whenever you have a time during dinner preparation.
Order of preparation:
If you prepare the walnuts, Cumin Cream and parfait filling or chocolate mousse ahead of time, you can start dinner about 1-1/2 hours before time to serve.
Prepare the leeks up to the point of broiling.
While they're simmering, assemble the parfaits. (Skip this if you're serving the mousse.)
Make the salad.
While the salad is resting, prepare the Chicken Penne. After grilling the chicken, leave the broiler on; broil the leeks as you put the pasta dish together. ________
If you have not prepared the make-aheads,
allow yourself another 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Prepare the Rosemary Walnuts,
the Cumin Cream and the mousse or parfait filling and then proceed as