Thursday Dinner: Spaghetti With Chicken and Bell Pepper in Sherry Lemon-Cream Sauce

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One would think that a cream sauce might be a little rich for a mid-week dinner. One would be right.

But, you really only live once (a couple of times if you subscribe to such teachings), and a sherry-cream sauce on a Thursday night will not be listed by your local medical examiner as the cause of death. Cream sauce for dinner five nights a week, on the other hand, and you will likely need to put a cardiologist on retainer.

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This particular cream sauce is appealing because it is easy. Rather than fussing over a pan to prevent scorching, you simply heat the cream through. While it dominates aesthetically, the cream’s flavor is an accent to the peppers, chicken and sherry.

WHAT WORKED: Simplicity. This was prep to table in about 45 minutes, including counter cleanup.

WHAT DIDN’T: A couple of the ingredients, for different reasons. The original recipe from Jennifer Olvera at Serious Eats called for 10 oz. of heavy cream. I scaled back to 8 oz. My contribution to the anti-obesity effort. She also used chicken breasts, while I opted for chicken thighs.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: I honestly don’t remember if she said anything at all. I would doubt it. She had an awful week last week and much of our dinnertime were spent debriefing on the blender full of sewage in which she works.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I would think so. It’s a nice summer pasta dish. I would likely tweak the amount of cream used, maybe dialing it back to 6 oz., or trying a dry marsala or madeira.

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Spaghetti With Chicken and Bell Pepper in Sherry Lemon-Cream Sauce
Adapted from Jennifer Olvera’s original at Serious Eats

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 8 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • Juice and grated zest from two fresh lemons
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. spaghetti (other long pasta works as well)
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves (optional)

Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Salt liberally and cook pasta to one minute less than the directions on the package.

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In a straight-sided sauté pan, bring olive oil to a shimmer over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and cook. Stir until the shallots are translucent, three minutes. Add bell peppers and cook two minutes.

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Pour in the sherry, increase heat to medium-high and deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer one minute, then add cream, lemon juice and zest, and chicken. Poach chicken in the cream, cooking through. Season with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat.

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Reserve one cup of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to the cream sauce and turn the burner to high. Add the butter and half of the water, using a pasta fork to swirl and combine the new ingredients. Use the remaining pasta water to thin out your sauce, if desired.

Toss with parmesan cheese and basil, and serve immediately.

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