Recipe: Sautéed Chicken and Pasta with a Leek and Onion Cream Sauce

So, I picked up leeks a little while ago with plans to make my Fettuccine and Sweet Italian Sausage in a Parmesan-Leek Sauce. When I left the house this morning, I set chicken out to thaw, having completely forgotten about the leeks (which have been languishing in the veggie drawer for over a week now), and planned to just wing it for dinner tonight. When I got home in the evening and starting getting prepped to make dinner, I found the leeks in the fridge and decided to just do a different take on that sauce from the original recipe, and the result was delicious. Leeks, onion, and garlic all have strong flavors, but blended together with heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, butter, and seasoning, they mellow out, creating a light, creamy sauce that pairs perfectly with chicken (and could work with a lot of other white meats).

iPhone 5 photo…not too shabby (I was too hungry and lazy to run upstairs and grab my camera)

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Special equipment: Food processor

Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, cleaned and cut in half (remove all of the green top part and the roots/bottom; soak in warm water for a few minutes to help remove any grit and grim)
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Approx. 1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2-4 tbsp. white wine (cooking grade is fine)
  • 2-4 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 2-4 tbsp. lemon pepper (if you don’t have this, just add some extra pepper and dry lemon peel, or skip it altogether) 
  • Approx. 1/4 cup heavy cream (add more as needed)
  • 2 chicken breasts, whole or cut into strips
  • 1 package (approx. 16 oz.) spaghetti or linguine (you could also try a small pasta, like penne or rotini—they could work very well with the sauce)
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, then add the leeks and cook for 2-4 minutes, until tender. Drain the leeks and put them in the food processor. Heat a little butter and olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook until tender, then put it in the food processor. Add garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, white wine, oregano, lemon pepper, salt, and pepper to the onion and leeks. Blend in the food processor until well-blended (the mixture likely won’t be completely smooth, but this is fine—a little texture is good for this sauce). With the food processor running, slowly add the heavy cream. Sauce will be not too thin but not too thick. Pour it into a small pot and warm it over medium heat on the stove—add a little water or milk if you need to thin it out. In the same pan you used for the onion, add a little butter and olive oil, heat over medium-high heat, then add the chicken (season the chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon pepper). When partially cooked through, add the white wine (I just poured a splash in) and let it cook down. When the chicken is cooked through, it should be golden brown and no wine should be left in the pan. Reduce the heat when the chicken is cooked through to prevent overcooking. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, lightly salt it, then add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (about 5 minutes). Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the sauce (I reserved a few big spoonfuls to pour over the chicken) and stir/toss to coat. Serve the chicken atop the pasta and top with sauce, if desired. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
This dish is flavorful and creamy, but not overly rich. The strong flavors of the onion, leek, and garlic blend well together and the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese help even out the flavor. Cooking the chicken with butter and white wine helps brown it beautifully, while adding flavor and helping to keep it tender as it cooks. My parents only had one suggestions for this dish: add bacon. I agree—a little cooked, crumbled bacon sprinkled on the dish would heighten the saltiness and bring out the flavors in the sauce. But, even without that delicious pig meat, this dish is tasty.
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