This dish was one of those surprising results of leftovers; I think some of the best, most creative recipes are a result of just using what you have on hand. Caesar salad is the best example of such, but this is my version of the best use of leftovers. Here’s the story: Despite the fact that I was making duck confit ravioli (soon to be posted) for Christmas Eve dinner, Bryan decided he would smoke a chicken…because we had had one, and he was firing up the smoker for a huge pork butt that he randomly bought. We never did eat the smoked chicken, but Bryan cut it up and saved it – and I, of course, had to figure out a way to use it. The smoky flavored chicken needed to be balanced with something with a little zip. I considered just a standard cream sauce, but, in my leftover effort, decided to use cream cheese for the base of my sauce. I had shitake mushrooms on hand (you could substitute almost any other mushroom with great results) and also arugula (leftover from our beef carpaccio on Christmas Eve). End result…spectacular, in my humble opinion.
- 3 Cups Smoked* Cooked Chicken – skinned and cut or shredded into 1/2 pieces
- 1 Medium Shallot – finely chopped
- 3.5 oz. Shitake (or other favorite) Mushroom – coursely chopped
- 1 Clove Garlic – minced
- 2 TBS. Olive Oil
- 2 Kumato or Roma Tomatoes – seeded and diced
- 4 Oz. (1/2 package) Cream Cheese
- 1 Cup Chicken Broth
- 2 Cups Arugula
- Penne Pasta (about 5 cups cooked – 3/4 box uncooked)
- Salt and Pepper
- Shredded Parmesan cheese (as garnish)
- Chopped Parsley (as garnish)
* If you don’t have smoked chicken, you can certainly substitute any cooked chicken – rotisserie chicken meat would work very well.
Cook penne pasta according to directions on label; run under cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat; add shallots, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms are softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken and tomatoes and cook until heated through. Add cream cheese and mix until well incorporated. Add chicken broth to thin out and create a sauce. Add arugula and cook until arugula is wilted. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Add pasta to saute pan, toss until pasta is well coated and rewarmed. Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsely.