Here’s a simple yet tasty dish that utilizes one of the most versatile of all smoked foods, smoked chicken.
Unlike pork and beef, chicken doesn’t really have a long history as a smoked food. Historically, it was boiled, but at some point in the early Twentieth Century, someone got the bright idea to throw a chicken into a smoker, and the results were fantastic. Unlike tough cuts like beef brisket and pork shoulder, which need a lot of low and slow cooking to become tender, chicken is natively tender, unless of course you overcook it. It’s also very moist and porous, which means it takes on smoke flavor readily, and doesn’t need a long time to cook. I usually buy lots of chicken when it is on sale, smoke it, and freeze the pieces for later cookery. You can find more info on my yard bird smoking technique here.
Anywho, for this dish, I’m utilizing some of the smoked chicken I’ve pulled from the freezer and thawed. You could of course make this dish with chicken you’ve cooked any old way (hopefully not boiled, though), but I think the smoke flavor combined with the cream cheese and other ingredients really makes this dish sing.
Smoked Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells
2 Cups Smoked Chicken, Diced
6 Oz Mushrooms, Sliced
1 Medium Onion, Diced
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 or so Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Package (8 oz) Cream Cheese
1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan cheese
1 Cup Freshly Grated Asiago cheese
1/2 Cup Prepared Pesto
Salt and Pepper to taste
12 or so Jumbo Pasta Shells, Cooked Just Under Al Dente
Parsley, for garnish
Start water boiling for your pasta shells. Preheat Oven to 350˚F. Sauté mushrooms and onion
until cooked and just start to turn golden.
Add minced garlic and cook one minute more.
Meanwhile, tend to that chicken breast.
This recipe uses a breast that I’ve presmoked. You can use whatever you like, but the smoke flavor really makes the dish. Dice the fully smoked breast up into small pieces.
Add the chicken and the cooked mushrooms and onions to a food processor. Pulse a couple times to chop everything up. Add to this the cream cheese, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, 3/4 Cup of the Asiago and the Prepared Pesto. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Pulse a few times until everything is mixed up, but don’t do too much, or you’ll end up with a paste. We still want some small chunks of chicken and mushroom in there.
Cook your pasta shells until they are firm but not cooked through. This will help them hold their shape and stay together while you stuff them. They will finish cooking in the oven.
Stuff the shells with a tablespoon or two of the mixture.
Place the shells in a greased casserole dish.
Cover with foil.
Bake 30 Minutes at 350˚F, then remove foil and dust the shells with the remaining Parmesan and Asiago. Increase temp to 450˚F and bake another few minutes, until cheese topping melts and starts to turn golden brown.
Remove from oven and serve.
These go great by themselves or you can drizzle some red sauce over them, or serve with a side salad, or whatever. This one’s all about simplicity.
Until next time,