Chicken Florentine, where have you been all my life?
Who would have thought that the simple combination of spinach, chicken, and cream could create such a glorious dinner? Well, the Italians, obviously, because they are good at that kind of thing. I’m just baffled that it took me so long to realize it. I mean, I love spinach, I love chicken, and I am a sucker for anything in a cream sauce. How has this dish never graced my kitchen? And when can I have it again? It is truly a perfect combination of flavors and textures and all those other things that make food, you know, good. Er. Yes.
I saw the recipe in Giada’s Family Dinners about two weeks ago and it stuck in my head, floating around, taunting me. “You love spinach. You want to cook me!” But I’m a grad student, see, and I don’t have time to be at the beck and call of whatever recipes decide to tempt me. I had to eat frozen veggie burgers (don’t worry, I heat them up first) and macaroni and cheese and pre-made gnocchi from Trader Joe’s while this recipe enticed me and beckoned to my nonexistent free time. Well, finally last night I had some free time. And I only wish I’d made the time earlier, because this is one of my new favorites.
It’s not particularly difficult or time consuming, but it does require a lot of dishes and some dexterity with the timing. I was a little worried about my sauce, and feared I undercooked my pasta and definitely feared I undercooked my chicken, because I have problems with that. But I should not have worried because everything came together in the end in a medley of awesome. Yeah, I just said medley of awesome.
Chicken Florentine also has the benefit of making you feel both indulgent and virtuous. You’re eating spinach, so clearly, totally healthy. You’re eating spinach in rich, garlicky cream sauce. Um, very indulgent. In fact, I think it made me feel so indulgent that I decided to forget about my reading, polish off the bottle of sauvignon blanc I used in the sauce, and watch “All That Heaven Allows” instead. Apparently, I forgot I am a grad student and can’t be doing those things on Monday nights anymore.
Crazy Indulgent Chicken Florentine
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or are they chicken breast halves?)
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 c. flour
- 4 T. unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 c. white wine (I used a pretty lovely Chilean Sauvignon Blanc)
- 1 c. heavy cream (oh yeah)
- 1/4 c. parsley, chopped (I used maybe a little more, and definitely a lot more than Giada suggested. Because cripes, you can only buy parsley in huge bundles and it seemed silly to only use a tablespoon.)
- 1 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (fresh would probably be good, too)
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, and dredge it in the flour, shaking off any excess. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat, and once it is melted and has stopped being quite so foamy, add the chicken to the skillet.
Cook the chicken for about five minutes on each side, or maybe a bit longer if you have thicker pieces, like I did. You might worry about burning butter and drying out the chicken, but don’t stress out, it will turn out just fine. Just let that chicken cook through for about 10 to 12 minutes. When it’s done, remove the chicken from the skillet to a platter and cover it to keep it warm.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a smaller skillet, and add the spinach. Just let it cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, while you finish up the sauce. Add some salt and pepper to taste, and maybe some nutmeg if you’re feeling crazy.
In the chickeny skillet, add another tablespoon of butter or some olive oil, and once it’s hot and/or melted, add the shallots and garlic. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes, or until the shallots start to soften and become a little translucent. Then deglaze the pan with the white wine. Turn the heat up a bit and let the wine and shallots cook down until the liquid is reduced by about half. Then add the heavy cream, and whisk everything together. Let it continue to cook until the cream is thickened and the mixture has again reduced, probably about three or four minutes. Stir in the parsley, and a bit more salt and pepper to taste, and then return the chicken to the sauce skillet, turning the pieces so they get nice and coated. Just let them cook in the sauce for a few minutes while you finish up the spinach and (if you’re making it) drain the pasta.
Serve the chicken on top of a bed of beauteous spinach and pasta, and top it all with the saucy sauce. And marvel over the fact that eating spinach can feel decadent.