Monday, July 28, 2014

Chicken Margarita Penne - Great Idea For Leftover Chicken

I am pretty well known for being late with getting dinner on the table but I'm trying to get better with that.  I saw this recipe for Penne with Tomatoes and Green Beans with a Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette in Southern Living and thought I could snazz it up a bit for a quick fix dinner.

grilled chicken pasta salad

The main changes that I did were
  1. Added meat - I had tests a margarita injection on a few chickens the day before so I had leftover chicken on hand but you could use a rotisserie bird.
  2. Made a margarita vinaigrette instead of their lemon shallot one.
  3. Subbed asparagus for green beans.
  4. Added a little heat.
But first here is the injection recipe if you want to make your own chicken.  This marinade not only adds beaucoup flavor and moisture but it also gives the chicken the buttery texture that you'd imagine.

Margarita Injection for Chicken
prep time: 5 min
cook time: 5 min
servings:  enough for 2-3 chickens or 1 turkey

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces margarita mix
  • 3 tablespoons silver tequila
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it begins to simmer.  
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool before injection.  
  3. Use a meat syringe to inject into the chicken, making sure to get the legs, thighs, and breasts.
Chicken Margarita Penne
adapted from Southern Living's Penne with Tomatoes and Green Beans
prep time:  20 minutes
cook time:  12 minutes for the pasta
servings:  8

  • 16 ounces dried penne pasta, cooked according to directions
  • 2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 ounces asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
For the Margarita Vinaigrette
  • 3 ounces margarita mix
  • 1 tablespoon sliver tequila
  • 1/2 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix all ingredients for the vinaigrette in a medium bowl except oil, salt and pepper.  Slowly add the oil while briskly whisking until the oil is thoroughly combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  I did about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
  2. Mix together the chicken, pasta, tomatoes, asparagus, and red pepper flake.  Toss with just enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat everything.  Keep the rest.  Add the dill and lightly toss.
  3. Refrigerate for at least a few hours before serving.  
Two tips
  1. This is one of those dishes, like spaghetti, that is even better the next day so make in advance when possible.
  2. Freshen it up when serving by tossing with with a bit of the reserved vinaigrette or just some white balsamic vinegar.
To shorten my grill cooking time for cooking the chicken, I spatchcocked the chickens and cooked them "raised direct" skin side up for 1 hour at 375°F.  I injected the chickens with the buttery margarita injection and then seasoned them with Albukirky BBQ rub.  I also added 2 chunks of mesquite wood to the coal for a little Southwestern smoke.

spatchcock, chicken injection, poultry injection
One bird spatchcocked on the left, just cut out the back bone with a sharp knife or scissors and then flatten the chicken out.

The raised grill rack postions the chicken closer to the dome of the kamado grill, so the reflective heat browns the top too.

Mesquite smoke is strong, so I only use a little and typically only for cooks of short duration.

spatchcock chicken, grilled chicken, chicken on kamado, grilled poultry
Cooked until it reached an internal temp of 160°F in the breast and 175°F in the thighs.

grilled chicken,
I'll take a spatchcocked bird cooked on a kamado over a store bought rotisserie bird any day of the week.

grilled chicken pasta, leftover chicken

We served ours sprinkled with a little cotija cheese - perfect!

Drapers BBQ Giveaway
My BBQ brother and owner of Drapers BBQ is doing a huge giveaway over at his Facebook page.  The prize package is valued over $550 and includes a Pit Barrel Cooker, Drapers BBQ Rub, and much, much more.  I've mentioned the Pit Barrel Cooker before - it is simple to use, doesn't take up much space, and is perfect for the person wanting to try their hand at BBQ and smoking.

The best part is to enter, all you have to do is Like his Facebook Page.  Seriously, that's it.  How simple, right?  You can get the full contest info and enter HERE.