First let me say, I hate my crockpot. I don’t think I have ever cooked something just right, it always tends to overcook. Tonight was an exaggerated example of that. The plan was to have turkey meatballs and sauce over spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash, if you haven’t tried it, can be a great alternative to pasta, and works particularly well in dishes that have a lot of other flavor going on (for example, I make a killer spaghetti squash lasagna – you’ll see it here in the blog someday, I promise!). The plan was thwarted by the evil crockpot, which insisted, even on “low” setting, to completely dry out the sauce and burn the balls. Well, I had really been looking forward to these meatballs and not cooking tonight, but I managed to throw something together. I wasn’t so happy about having to make something, but I was certainly happy to eat, as it came out pretty darn delicious. I made somewhat of a spin on the classic chicken-broccoli-ziti (the one dish my little brother would order in almost every restaurant we went to growing up, in case you were wondering) but ended up with a lighter and more flavorful version. We both really liked the taste of thyme in this dish, as it gives an earthy tone which contrasts nicely with the tangy lemon juice.
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
2 small stalks of broccoli
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, minced
4 oz dry white wine
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
1/4 cup half and half
grated lemon juice
freshly chopped basil
2 tbsp parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
Heat a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and add to hot pan. Cook for a few minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Add broccoli, garlic, thyme and olive oil to pan, stirring to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 3-5 minutes, till broccoli softens a bit. Add wine and lemon juice to pan and scrape up bits from the bottom; bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add half and half and continue simmering till slightly thickened. Add spaghetti squash, tossing to coat and heat through. Garnish each serving with grated cheese, lemon zest, and basil.
*I prefer to do this in the oven. Pierce the squash all over, and bake in a pan with a little water for about an hour at 400F. Cool and then split open, remove seeds, and pull out stringy flesh with two forks. This can be done ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for a couple days.