This dish is Comfort Food all the way through, perfect to combat our dreary weather, the I-don't-feel-like-doing-anything-useful blahs, the tail-end of an achey flu episode... Oh yes, all of that packed into one day. I think Comfort Food requires a heavy dose of carbohydrates, something soothing like pasta or mashed potatoes with a cream sauce or melted cheese. I tried to balance my carb craving with a bit of protein and vegetables, a token nod to nutrition. Despite the nutritious kale and mushrooms this is a rich, self-indulgent plate of deliciousness, loaded with more than a few artery-clogging calories. (Note to self: practice portion control and restraint.)
The chicken and vegetable combination is terrific even without the creamy sauce, but toss in the Parmesan, lemon zest and nuts to really pop the flavor. I would pair this chicken/vegie blend with a tangy cheese to fill crepes, omelets, panini or even quesadillas... but that's for another day. I promise myself a return to the path of healthier eating tomorrow, but today a Chicken Florentine Casserole provided comfort food therapy. I loved every decadent bite.
Chicken Florentine with Kale & Mushrooms
For the Chicken:
2 chicken breasts, each cut into 2 or 3 pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- Gently poach 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a skillet until barely pink inside. (I add just enough low-sodium chicken broth to reach halfway up the slices of chicken and bring the liquid to a rolling boil, over medium-high heat. Turn the chicken pieces over, remove the skillet from the heat, cover and let sit for 6 to 8 minutes to finish cooking.)
- Remove the barely cooked chicken pieces to a platter or cutting board, saving the broth in the skillet. Use 2 forks or your fingers to shred the meat along the grain into bite-size chunks. Return to the now-cooled broth to soak up some liquid and avoid drying out.
- (OR you could take a shortcut and just shred some deli-roasted chicken.)
For the Vegetables:
1+ Tablespoon butter
1 good glug of olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced from top to bottom into thin strips
12+ medium mushrooms, wiped clean, halved and sliced thick
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme or mixed Italian herbs
2 cups chopped kale leaves, minus stems (or spinach, if you prefer)
Salt and white pepper to taste
- Add the butter and oil to a second skillet and warm over medium-high heat. Add the ‘shrooms and cook until they begin to give up some of their liquid. Add the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the thyme and kale, cover the skillet, lower the heat to medium-low and cook another 5 minutes while the vegetables soften and give up more liquid.
- Uncover and simmer to reduce the liquid, but don't cook the pan dry. Taste and add salt and white pepper to suit your palate.
For the Creamy Sauce:
Chicken-cooking liquid plus additional broth required to equal 2 cups
2 cups half and half (light cream)
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
zest of 1 large lemon
½ cup toasted walnuts, rough chopped (or substitute pine nuts)
½ cup Italian parsley, rough chopped or shredded
Optional: several dashes of green Tabasco or other hot sauce
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the shredded chicken to a plate or bowl. Bring the remaining liquid plus extra broth as needed to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the cream and reduce to thicken slightly. (The reduced sauce should cling to and coat a serving spoon.)
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream. Add the Parmesan, lemon zest, walnuts and parsley and stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired.
- (OR instead you could substitute your favorite Mornay Sauce with butter, flour, milk, hot sauce and grated cheese.)
Cooked shredded chicken
Prepared vegetables (onions, mushrooms, kale)
Cooked pasta or rice
- Combine a portion of the chicken with an equal portion of vegetables; add just enough sauce to moisten; fold or toss to incorporate. Add an equal amount of pasta (or a half portion of rice) and additional sauce until well-coated (but not swimming in sauce).
- Fill individual baking dishes or ramekins, cover and bake for 20 to 30 minutes to heat thoroughly. Serve with extra sauce, your favorite hot sauce and shredded Parmesan on the side.