Warm Chicken & Mushroom Ragout

Most of the recipes I write about are ones that I’ve found and tried from various other sources – the internet, magazines, cookbooks. It’s relatively rare that I write about a Floptimism Original. In the beginning, this was because there really weren’t many Floptimism Originals – I still had on my kitchen training wheels and didn’t tend to branch out into the world of culinary creations. Even now, with  a full bookshelf of cookbooks of my own (not to mention the full other bookshelf of my mom’s), literally thousands of recipes in my Firefox bookmarks, and a stack of food magazines that just about reaches the moon, I tend to play it safe with the genius already created by others. I also tend to let my creative juices out in meals other than dinner. I love thinking up new ways of combining odds-and-ends ingredients for lunch or finding a breakfast dish that will break the monotony that I can sometimes fall into, or even looking at my dessert stash and inventing some concoction from an array of lesser ingredients. Somehow, though, I never view these “recipes” as, well, recipes! They just seem like dishes I throw together, and aren’t “complicated” enough or “legitimate” enough for their own post.

Every so often, though, I hit the jackpot, and I really do make an honest-to-goodness recipe. One good example is my idea for a chicken ragout, of sorts, that I made for the first time last semester. It was…good. I enjoyed it. But the sauce wasn’t as thick as I had wanted it to be and the chicken was a little chewy. The pine nuts got very lost in the dish and the herbs could have definitely been kicked up a notch. As tempted as I was to share it with you right then, I waited, biding my time until another opportunity to make it presented itself.

Just over a month ago such an occasion arose, and I took my notes and tried to improve the recipe. I tweaked the preparation method and modified the ingredients. I even added a dusting of parmesan cheese to it the second time around, but I really don’t think it was necessary (unless you’re a die-hard cheese lover, then, by all means, go for it). The second attempt was so much better! The chicken wasn’t chewy at all, and the sauce really tasted like something I’d get at a restaurant. This is definitely the kind of dish that cold weather calls for, so if Mother Nature ever decides to make winter happen around here (is it just my neighborhood or is it crazy warm for the end of November right now?), add this to your arsenal and make it happen. I’ve paired it with sautéed spinach and Brussels sprouts, and enjoyed both alongside the chicken. If low-carb isn’t your cup of tea, add a nice hearty loaf of bread. You won’t be sorry.

 Chicken Ragout
Yield: 4 servings

The Ingredients
15 ounces chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 can (15 ounces) no salt added diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ - 1 cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
1 bag spinach

The Method
Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a glass baking dish.

Caramelize the onion slices in the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium or medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes. Add in the garlic and mushrooms and cook an additional 4-5 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes and herbs and allow to reduce and thicken slightly, approximately 5 minutes.

Butterfly normal-sized breasts or use thin-sliced chicken, and place in them in the prepared baking dish. Top with the mushroom sauce and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Just before the chicken is ready, sauté the spinach in a scantily greased pan with a small amount of water.

Serve the chicken over the cooked spinach, topped with pine nuts and, if using, parmesan cheese.


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