Leftover roast chicken breast saves step at stove

The real payoff of roasting a whole chicken comes in the days to follow, maybe as much as a week later.

Although my family of four consumes more than half the bird in the initial sitting, I can count on at least one more meal consisting of chunks from the breast, plus a vegetable- or starch-heavy meal incorporating whatever tidbits I can prize from the chicken’s nether regions. Then it’s into the stockpot for either quick or slow-cooked soup, not to the mention the subsequent meal infused with chicken flavor from several cups of homemade stock.

Chicken breast roasted with its bones intact, under the blanket of its succulent skin is far superior, in my opinion, to starting a recipe with raw, boneless, skinless breast meat, which I almost never buy. So when I do have breast meat left over from a roast chicken, extolled in this blog’s previous post, I plan to use it in recipes calling for boneless, skinless breast. The substitution saves me a step at the stove and a bit of time.

Here’s an example in that genre, similar to what I planned with leftover cooked chicken and cooked pasta. Or start this one from scratch on a night when that satisfying combination of noodles, sauce, meat and vegetables is in order. Once it’s popped into the oven, I’ll concede to calling it a casserole, courtesy of the Kansas City Star.

Tribune News Service photo

Cheesy Spaghetti Chicken Casserole

8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced thin

2 cups frozen broccoli florets

2 tablespoons butter

2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups low-fat milk

1/2 teaspoon dried or rubbed sage leaves

2 tablespoons brandy or Marsala (optional)

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 2-quart oblong baking dish (about 11-by-7 inches) with nonstick spray; set aside.

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until al dente. Do not overcook; drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is browned and fully cooked, for about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and set aside. Add the onion, mushrooms and broccoli to skillet.

Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is tender. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add the butter to skillet and melt. Stir in the flour, blending until smooth and continue to cook, stirring continuously, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, milk, sage and brandy and stir until mixture is smooth and comes to a simmer. Add chicken and vegetables to sauce.

Toss with the Swiss cheese and spaghetti. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until slightly browned and bubbly. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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