• October 2, 2014

Forcing spring onto the dinner table

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Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 4:30 am

I’ve given up on this winter and decided to just pretend that it’s spring.

If you can force tulip bulbs inside, why not just force the rest of it, too?

So that meant I had to put away my slow cooker (but not before one really delicious pot of beef stew), forget the potatoes, dried beans and other rib-sticking, soul-warming fare, and embrace what was fresh and green.

SAUTEED CHICKEN BREAST WITH PAPPARDELLE AND CREAMY SPINACH SAUCE

½ stick butter (¼ cup)

1 medium yellow cooking onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced, divided use

4 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk, 1 or 2 percent (do not use skim), at room temperature

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Dash of nutmeg, or more to taste

1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and roughly chopped

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin

Olive oil, for sauteing

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 ounces fresh pappardelle pasta

1 lemon for zesting

In a large skillet or saucepan, melt butter. Add chopped onion. Season with salt, and cook until soft and just beginning to turn brown.

Add 2 cloves garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

Stir flour into onions and garlic and mix well until flour is incorporated into melted butter.

Add milk and whisk to combine. Reduce heat, and let sauce simmer until it begins to thicken and look velvety, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add cheese and stir to combine. Season with nutmeg, pepper and additional salt, if desired.

When sauce has thickened, add spinach a handful at a time, stirring to combine the spinach into sauce until it wilts before adding next handful.

Once all spinach has been added, adjust seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat while chicken is cooking.

Bring a pot of cold salted water to a boil for the pasta.

While water is coming to a boil, heat a second skillet over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom completely. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Put chicken into skillet and saute on one side, then flip and cook on second side until chicken is cooked through and golden brown on both sides. Add remaining 1 clove of minced garlic to skillet after flipping and watch to be sure it doesn’t burn.

When chicken is nearly done, add pasta to water and boil to desired tenderness.

Re-warm the sauce. Using a fine grater, grate about 2 teaspoons of lemon zest (or more to taste) into the sauce and stir to combine.

To serve, divide pasta between two plates. Top with creamy spinach sauce, then chicken breast, then additional sauce. Garnish with more lemon zest, if desired.

Makes 2 servings.

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