And sometimes I like to make dinner a project. Piddling around in the kitchen (yes, I used the word piddle! It must be another one of those Southernisms from my youth) prepping savory and aromatic ingredients, standing over a Dutch oven or a skillet stirring and sautéing; playing with a blend of flavors to create a fun and enticing dinner event.
If I had all the time in the world, that’s how I’d cook every night. But I live in reality (most of the time) and reality often tells me I have to hustle if I want to serve dinner before midnight. Ok, I’m being dramatic again, we don’t eat dinner even remotely close to midnight. But there are moments when I’m in a genuine panic because my family is famished and my day was running late before my feet hit the floor that morning.
This is exactly the reason I love simple, fresh and tasty dishes that use the seasons harvest combined with a main ingredient. Most produce really does taste fabulous all on its own. But combine it with a few other fresh ingredients, simply prepared and of course sauced, and wow… dinner made delicious.
Lemon Chicken Florentine is a perfect example. Fresh baby spinach, aromatic shallots and garlic, tangy fresh lemon, organic chicken topped with a quick creamy sauce and a sprinkling of fresh herbs and decadent cheese. Set it on the table and watch it disappear!
I know the recipe looks lengthy, but it’s just me being wordy. I love teaching home chef’s how to cook and I want to make sure you fully understand the easy steps in preparing this dish. The sauce is just a quick bechamel (do not hyperventilate it’s super easy!) combined with lots of fresh herbs and your favorite hard cheese. Personally I adore Parrano cheese, very much like a parmesan but nuttier. Most markets that have a gourmet cheese area will carry this cheese as it’s becoming quite popular in the US.
I love feedback, questions and comments, so if you need additional advice or instruction on any of the recipes in this blog, just give me a shout. (that would be an email shout)
Keep dinner simple… Enjoy the flavors of life!
1 ½ lbs organic free range chicken breasts, thin sliced or pounded thin (when talking to your butcher ask for chicken cutlets) It should be about 6-8 cutlets if nicely thin sliced. If you can’t find cutlets, purchase organic chicken breasts and either pound them thinner and cut into serving sizes, or the chicken breast horizontally to make two cutlets out of one breast.
2 tablespoons or a good drizzle of high heat oil (coconut, safflower, sunflower or peanut)
Salt and pepper
3 lbs fresh baby Spinach (I love using baby spinach; it wilts quickly and easily. However, if you grow spinach or purchase it from a local farm, definitely use whatever kind of spinach you have on hand)
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup chopped shallots (this doesn’t have to be exact, if you have one shallot, medium or large, chop it up and use it)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups organic milk (whole milk, 2% or 1%)
1 medium lemon juiced (2-3 tablespoons)
1/3 cup shredded parmesan, Gruyere, Parrano, Fontina or Romano cheese (Or a combination)
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley, fresh basil, fresh oregano, fresh thyme or fresh chive (or a combination)
Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
Heat a large skillet on medium high and add a few tablespoons of oil. Pat the cutlets dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
When the oil is hot place the cutlets in the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side, just until golden brown. No need to cook through as they are going in the oven to finish cooking.
Once the cutlets have been browned, transfer to a platter.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the spinach, in batches if necessary, to the skillet. (No need to add any oil or butter we just want to wilt the spinach with the heat) Toss until the spinach is wilted, adding more spinach as it cooks down.
Just as the last of the spinach begins to wilt, toss in the garlic and sauté for a minute or two. Transfer the spinach to a baking dish or roasting pan and spread evenly on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Still over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter, and shallots to the skillet.
When the butter is frothy and shallots are soft, add the flour and whisk for a minute or two. It will look like a bit of a disaster in your pan, but don’t panic, once you add the milk, the sauce will all come together, just keep whisking.
As you whisk, pour in the milk and continue whisking until the sauce is smooth and is at your desired consistency. If the sauce seems too thick (like gravy rather than a sauce) add a little more milk to thin. Whisk in the lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper.
Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the cheese.
Place the chicken on the spinach and cover with the sauce. Sprinkle additional cheese on top with the fresh chopped herbs.
Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 5-8 minutes longer. The sauce will be slightly bubbly and the chicken should be done. If using a meat thermometer, the chicken will be done when it reaches 160F.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving. I love to serve this with brown rice or a wild rice mix, farro or quinoa. Enjoy!