Chicken Florentine Casserole

picture by the Serving Wench

picture by the Serving Wench

WARNING:  This recipe is not healthy.  There is no way around it.  I could have tried healthier alternatives but in all my research for vintage 60’s dishes, it seems that butter and heavy cream was big.  Go big, or go home, right?  Well, in my continued excitement of the pending premiere of Mad Men, I had to be true what they served (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).  Casseroles seemed to have been big in the sixties for entertaining and taking over to friend’s homes.  I’m not big on casseroles and neither was my mom, so this was definitely an experience for me.

This dish was fairly easy to make, but took many steps.  I poured through several recipes and finally decided on one.  I modified it quite a bit.  I love garlic, so I definitely increased the amount used, I wanted to add rice to this dish, but ate it all.  So plan B was to add pasta.  I love to use fresh herbs when I can, but you can substitute dried basil and thyme as the original recipe requested.  It was definitely delicious and look to learning other casserole dishes.

Prep Time: Cook Time: Level: Serves:
20 min. 1 hour Intermediate 8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pkgs.  frozen spinach (thawed & drained)
  • ½ stick butter (unsalted)
  • 2 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 TBS fresh thyme
  • 4 fresh basil leaves (chopped)
  • ¼ C (plus 1 TBS) flour
  • 1 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1 lb. chicken tenders
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can of chicken broth*
  • 2 C penne pasta
  • 1 pkg of prosciutto (8 slices)
  • shaved parmesan
  • Salt & pepper

*chicken broth can be substituted for white wine.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Season and brown chicken.  Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Spray non-stick spray on a casserole pan.  Pour pasta in the dish, covering the bottom.
  3. In a large sauté pan, over medium to medium low heat, add in 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of garlic, basil and thyme.  Stir constantly.
  4. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir well.  Add in spinach and ¼ cup of heavy cream.  Stir well and cook until spinach becomes bright green (about six minutes).
  5. Top the cooked spinach on top of the pasta, covering the whole pan.  Top the spinach with the chicken pieces.
  6. In the same sauté pan, add the rest of the garlic, the rest of the butter and the ¼ cup of flour.  Blend until smooth.
  7. Slowly add in the chicken broth and the rest of the heavy cream.  Stir constantly until sauce thickens (about 15 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. As the sauce is simmering, thin slice the prosciutto.  Add these pieces to the sauce.  Mix well and pour the sauce over the whole dish.  Be sure to cover the pasta as well. Sprinkle the parmesan on top.
  9. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Recipe was adapted and modified from southernfood.about.com.

Chicken Cacciatore

Photo Taken by Nicole Ramos

I love Italian food.  Growing up I imagined myself rich and living in Italy by the beaches and always, ALWAYS surrounded by the most amazing food.  Who doesn’t dream of that??  Now that I’ve grown up, I have tasted many different dishes from various cultures and although I’ve refined my palate, Italian food will always have a major part of my heart or is it stomach…? 

Chicken Cacciatore was a dish created during the Renaissance Period and mainly eaten by the upper class.  Cacciatore means “Hunter’s Style” and is considered a stew. It can be served with noodles tossed in olive oil or my favorite rice.

Serves:  4 Level:  Easy Prep Time:  15 min. Cook Time:  40 min.

Ingredients:

  • 4              bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1 TBS     House Seasoning
  • 3 TBS     Olive oil
  • 1 lg.        red bell pepper
  • 1 lg.        zucchini
  • 1 lg.        yellow bell pepper
  • 1              onion (chopped)
  • 1 pkg     mushrooms (sliced)
  • 3-4          garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 C          white wine (preferably a buttery chardonnay)
  • 1              14.5 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • ¾ C         chicken broth
  • 3 TBS     capers (drained)
  • 1 ½ tsp  Italian seasoning
  • ½ C         fresh basil (coarsely chopped)

Directions:

  1. Chop all the peppers and onions.  Cut the zucchini in half moon shapes, slice up the mushrooms and mince the garlic, then set them all aside in a large bowl. 
  2. In a 5-QT heavy sauté pan, heat the oil on a medium-high heat.  Season with the house seasoning and add the chicken pieces to the pan and just brown each side (≈ 5 min.).  If all the chicken doesn’t fit, do it in two batches.  Set the chicken aside when done
  3. Add the vegetables & garlic to pan.  Season with a little house seasoning & sauté over medium heat.
  4. Add wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add tomatoes with juices, capers, Italian seasoning & broth.
  5. Return the chicken to the mixture & turn over to coat the chicken.  Bring the sauce to a simmer.
  6. Continue simmering on medium –low heat until chicken is cooked (≈ 30 min.).
  7. Use tongs to serve chicken and spoon sauce over it, then garnish with fresh basil.

This dish will pair well with a Chianti Classico or any Sangiovese based wine.

I was one of the fortunate kids that had a mother that made me breakfast and dinner every night, so my tastes have always been closely tied with home style and/or authentic cooking.  When I first decided to try this recipe, I poured over many different recipes and decided that Guida de Laurentis was going to be close as I was going get.  I loved watching her show, Everyday Italian and I’m glad to have tried this recipe, I made a few modifications and additions (as I always do).