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Chicken, the Second Time Around

July 18, 1996|FAYE LEVY | Levy is the author of "30 Low-Fat Meals in 30 Minutes" (Warner Books)

Does it happen to you too? Do you end up with leftover barbecued chicken?

Perhaps you wanted to make sure there was plenty of food for your guests, so you put extra meat on the barbecue. Or maybe you bought big bags of chicken pieces advertised at a great price at the market and grilled them, thinking it would be nice to have extra cooked chicken on hand.

Reheated portions of barbecued chicken are not too thrilling, whether you warm them in the oven or in the microwave. Instead, I like to combine leftover grilled chicken with pasta or rice to make an easy casserole. The result is a satisfying, convenient, economical entree.

To obtain the most delicious barbecued chicken casserole, I use grilled marinated chicken as well as its marinade. I bring the marinade to a simmer and mix it with the other casserole ingredients.

Making a marinade-moistened casserole helps reinforce the flavors that we want the meat to absorb. Too often we rush to get the chicken on the grill, and it doesn't have time to gain much taste from its marinade. Charring the meat also diminishes the marinade's flavors. But in a casserole, the marinade has a chance to permeate the pasta and the chicken as the dish bakes.

I prefer to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for these casseroles because they remain moist and are a snap to prepare. You simply cut the grilled chicken into strips. Of course, you can use a whole barbecued chicken or pieces, but you have to remove the skin and bones first.

As for the marinade, my favorite one is flavored with fresh ginger, orange juice, wine, soy sauce and a touch of honey. You can use any marinade you like except for one based on yogurt (it would separate when you simmer it). Because marinades tend to be boldly seasoned, they add punch to the pasta. If your marinade contains no fat, it's a good idea to add a little olive or vegetable oil when mixing the marinade with the pasta, so the casserole won't be dry.

Short types of pasta are the most practical for casseroles because they are easy to mix with the chicken. I use spirals, large elbow macaroni or penne (quill-shaped pasta). Frequently I add a quick-cooking vegetable, such as carrot strips or peas, to the pasta cooking liquid, so I have all the elements of a complete meal in one pot.

ORANGE CHICKEN AND PASTA CASSEROLE WITH GINGER

1/3 cup strained orange juice

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons dry white wine

2 to 3 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel

1 tablespoon grated ginger root

Dash cayenne pepper or to taste

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/2 pound penne or other tube-shaped pasta

1 1/2 cups frozen peas

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

This easy casserole of chicken, pasta and peas needs only a salad of spinach and mixed lettuce to round out the meal. If you like, double the amount of chicken and marinade and serve half the chicken grilled on one day, then use the remaining chicken and about 2/3 cup marinade to make this casserole.

Mix orange juice, soy sauce, wine, oil, honey, orange peel, ginger root and cayenne in shallow dish. Add chicken and turn pieces over to coat them. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, turning chicken once or twice.

Remove chicken from marinade, reserving marinade in small saucepan. Broil or grill chicken, brushing twice with marinade, 4 minutes per side or until color inside is no longer pink. Check by cutting into a thick piece. Transfer to cutting board.

Cook penne, uncovered, in large pan of boiling salted water over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Add peas to thaw. Drain penne and peas. Rinse with cold water. Drain well and transfer to large bowl.

Cut chicken into strips. Bring reserved marinade to simmer. Pour over pasta mixture and mix well. Add chicken strips, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon pasta mixture into oiled 10-cup casserole. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees 30 minutes or until heated through. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

503 calories; 1,001 mg sodium; 106 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 58 grams carbohydrates; 37 grams protein; 1.38 grams fiber.

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