Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Penne with Grilled Chicken, Broccoli and Garlic

One of my favorite cooking challenges is to take a traditional dish and prepare it in a new, interesting way. Pasta with chicken and broccoli has always been one of my favorites, and it seemed ripe for a new interpretation. I'd never grilled broccoli, and thought that would be good to try. Caramelized on the grill, it goes great with the grilled chicken. Garlic comes in two ways in this version--I used powder in the marinade, and roasted garlic cloves were mixed into the cooked pasta. I used feta as well as parmesan to amp up the flavors. This is definitely one of my favorite new creations! Here are the details, so you can enjoy it too.

Grilled Broccoli 
l good size bunch of broccoli, chopped (keep the pieces big enough to avoid falling through the grill, especially if you don't have a grill pan)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
pinch red pepper flakes

Roasted Garlic
6 or so good sized cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp olive oil

3 small/medium boneless chicken breast fillets
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil

Pasta plus
12 ozs penne pasta
3 tbsp or so olive oil
1 or 2 tbsp white wine
1/3 cup feta cheese
parmesan cheese to serve at the table
8 olives, sliced

I hadn't grilled broccoli before, so I referred to this Grilling Companion recipe for the method on this part.  First, get ready to blanch the broccoli by boiling a large pot of water, and setting aside a bowl of ice water. When the water is boiling, put the broccoli in for 3 minutes; then strain and immediately immerse in the ice water to stop the cooking. Strain the broccoli thoroughly and be sure to remove any ice.

After the broccoli is thoroughly drained, toss it with the garlic powder, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and red pepper flakes. Let the broccoli marinade for about 30 minutes. Preheat your grill, leaving at least one burner off to allow for indirect cooking. I have a three burner grill, and started with just one burner on but turned on a second one part way through the process.

While the broccoli marinades, get the garlic roasting. Place the garlic in a small bowl, and toss with the olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Tightly wrap the garlic in aluminum foil, then place it on the portion of the grill where the burner isn't on.

As the garlic starts to roast, combine the chicken in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic powder, basil and salt. Let it marinade for a bit, as the chicken will only take about 10 minutes to cook. This is a good time to start the water boiling for the penne.

The broccoli will take about 20 to 25 minutes to roast on the grill. Spread the broccoli out in a grill pan, if you have one (a very handy tool for grilling veggies!), or directly onto the grill. Either way, you want to cook the broccoli over mostly indirect heat. I rotated the pan a few times to expose the broccoli to a bit of direct heat to help caramelize it and speed the cooking process. The broccoli should be tender and a bit browned when it is done. If it finishes before other items, put the broccoli into a serving bowl and cover to keep warm.

Put the pasta on to cook shortly after starting to grill the broccoli. Start grilling the chicken over direct heat with about 10 minutes to go on the broccoli and pasta. Turn the chicken over after about 5 minutes, and check for doneness after another 5 minutes. When done, remove from heat, and place on a platter loosely tented with aluminum. Cut into bite sized pieces after the chicken has cooled slightly.

The garlic should take about 30 to 40 minutes to get soft and brown. When done, place in a small bowl and mash with a dash of extra olive oil to get a good consistency. Set aside.

Drain the pasta when it finishes cooking. Toss it with the broccoli, chicken, garlic, feta and olives, adding the wine and extra olive oil as needed to keep it moist. The broccoli absorbs the liquid quickly, so I used wine along with olive oil so the dish would have a nice consistency without being too oily. After it has all been combined, you are ready to serve and enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Keeping with the idea of riffing on traditional themes, we served this with the 2011 Alexander Valley Vineyards Dry Rosé of Sangiovese ($16). Typically associated with Chianti, the classic Italian red wine, this rosé from California worked very well with the grilled food and garlicky flavors. The wine is refreshing and fruity as one likes in a summer wine, but also has the body to stand up to this substantial dish.