Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Success on Lightening Up a Classic - Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo

One of Corey's favorite dishes is chicken, broccoli and penne with alfredo sauce. For me, as it is usually prepared, it is far too fattening and beyond my reach anyway, since I am semi-lactose intolerant.  (By this I mean that I can eat some things like cheese in limited quantities, but never regular milk or cream sauce.)
Recently I started thinking about how to make alfredo without the heavy cream so we both could enjoy it.  I considered trying it with mascarpone which has less lactose, but with the amount the dish would require, it would still be pretty high in fat.  If it's going to be really good, I'd rather it also be reasonably healthy, since I know I'll want to make it again and again.
A few weeks ago I switched from buying soy milk for my coffee to lactose-free milk. As much as I tried to like it, and after trying several different flavors and varieties, soy milk just adds an unpleasant aftertaste that I grew tired of.  With lactose-free skim milk I can enjoy my coffee again, and cereal too!  Some people think this is strange, but I have never used half and half in coffee, only skim.  (Thanks to Diane Field for suggesting - several times - that I try lactose-free milk!)
Anyway, back to this dish.  I found a recipe for fettuccine alfredo on which calls for milk and light cream, and decided to try it with my lactose-free skim.  I couldn't find lactose-free light cream, so I bought lactose-free half and half.  I used whole wheat penne instead of fresh fettuccine, both to make it healthier and because of Corey's aversion to long pastas.  I also added chicken and broccoli, as well as garlic to both the broccoli and the sauce.
The result - excellent!  I am definitely glad I added the garlic.  Next time, I think I will save a little of the pasta water to add in at the end, which would help to make it even creamier.  I had planned to do this last night, but in my excitement to have perfectly al dente pasta, all of the water went down the drain.

Oil spray
3 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
Broccoli, about 1lb
1 large garlic clove, minced
Olive oil
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper
3/4lb whole wheat penne
1T unsalted butter
1C skim milk
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1 1/2t cornstarch
1/4C light cream or half and half
1/2C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of nutmeg


Spray a large pan with oil spray (such as canola) and place over medium heat.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides and just cooked through.  Remove to a bowl.

Add broccoli, 1 minced garlic clove, 1T olive oil, and 1/4-1/3C water to a pan and place over medium heat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook, about 5 minutes, until you can just pierce the broccoli with a fork.  Remove the cover, stir, and cook a little longer, about 2 minutes, until the water is evaporated.  Remove to a bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, and return to the pot.

In a small saucepan melt the butter, add the milk and the smashed garlic clove, and bring to a gentle simmer.  Whisk in cornstarch, and continue whisking occasionally until lightly thickened. Remove the garlic.

Put it all together:
Add chicken and broccoli to the pasta in the pot and stir to combine over low heat. Pour in the milk mixture and stir. Add light cream, Parmesan cheese, and nutmeg and stir.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Serve immediately, sprinkled with more parmesan if desired.

Adapted from

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