For dinner tonight I made baked chicken penne, as follows:
- 2 boneless skinless breasts of chicken, brined as follows:
- 1 quart water
- ¼ cup salt
- ! tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried italian herb mix
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- Stir until the salt and other powders are dissolved (I use a Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender to speed the process)
- Add chicken and let soak in the brine for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside on paper towels to dry.
- 5 ounces dried penne pasta cooked per package directions. I like Academia Barilla Artisan Penne Pasta
- 2 cups marinara sauce. I like Mia's Bistro Marinara.
- 4 ounces smoked mozzarella, grated
- 8 fresh mozzarella bocconcini balls, cut in half
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil chiffonade
- another ¼ cup grated parmesan
- panko bread crumbs
Combine all ingredients except the final ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs in a large bowl. Spritz a Le Creuset 9.5 inch Square Dish with a nonstick spray. (I like Pam Olive Oil spray.) Pour in mixture. You may have a bit left over, which can be zapped in the microwave until it hits 160°, allowed to cool, and fed to the dogs (or a treat for the cook). Top with the remaining parmesan and bread crumbs. Spritz the topping with the Pam Olive Oil spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. If the topping started to burn, cover with foil.
I served this yummy casserole with one of my favorite Cal-Ital wines: The Foxen 7200 Volpino. In 2011, it was a blend of 81% Sangiovese and 19% Merlot. Deep purple-ruby color. I poured off a couple of ounces into each of our Riedel O Syrah Wine Tumblers, which I like a lot for Italian and Cal-Ital wines, and let it breathe for about 45 minites while making dinner. Soft, silky tannins make it easy to drink now, while the bright acidity lets it stand up to this meal that combines tomatoes and cheese. Flavor associations on the nose and palate include strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry. Plus a hint of something herbal (sage?). Grade: B++
After dinner, I enjoyed a Dunhill Peravia, some Dow 20 year-old tawny Port, and some Stilton Cheese. Yum.