Friday, May 6, 2011

Recipe: Chicken Penne with Mushrooms in Garlic Cream

Vulgarity is the garlic in the salad of life. – Cyril Connolly

This is where I hide to catch a chicken. Not really...
Photo: CPSutcliffe, Flickr ccl
This is my version of another fantastic offering on the menu at Vinnie's Restaurant, Inglis Street, Halifax. Sometimes you just can't drag yourself down the street after a long day at work. So it's a comfort to know you can make restaurant quality Italian dishes at home.

Penne pasta. Photo: Gray Simpson, Flickr ccl
I have talked about Vinnie's Restaurant in an earlier post. Just type in "Vinnie's" in the top left search box above the banner to find it. One drawback about making this dish at home is you don't benefit from the wonderful warm individual breads that Vinnie's serves when you're there. I strongly suggest you go. The somewhat plain decor has little to do with the quality of the food.

I really don't have a lot to say about this dish, other than it's extremely good. The garlic and basil add a wonderful depth to the otherwise quite simple sauce. 

This is a great way to stretch two chicken breasts into a meal for four. I guess that's a feat in itself!

So without further ado, here it is. Enjoy!

Chicken Penne with Mushrooms in Garlic Cream

1/2 lb of penne, cooked to package directions
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 medium-large onion, cut in 3 slices and then quartered
4 lg garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp sherry
3/4 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut in chiffonade*
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan

Heat 1 tbsp in a large flat saucepan with a lid. 

Add the chicken breasts. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and allow the breasts to fry for 2-3 minutes. They will have browned slightly on the bottom side.

Turn the breasts, season again and recover. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove  the breasts to a plate. They will still be under cooked.

Add the onions and fry for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute more. Stir in the mushrooms with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil. (Mushrooms absorb a lot of oil when frying.) If brown bits are sticking to the bottom you can add a little water and loosen. Fry this mixture for about 5 minutes.

Slice the chicken breasts into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Add back into the pan with the cream, sherry and any collected juices. Allow the cream come to a gentle boil.

Combine the cornstarch and water. Reduce the heat and stir in the cornstarch. The mixture will start to thicken instantly.

Let simmer just until the chicken is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir on the basil and mix well. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add the cooked penne and toss well.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

* To chiffonade large leaf herbs stack the leaves atop each other, roll into a cylinder and then slice into long strips.


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