Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Special Sauce Edition

This was a bad week for cooking. I made dinner Monday night, though I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Tuesday was soccer practice, so I took MJ to McDonalds, which is something I really hate doing, but time was against us. (A quick aside -- it's not that I don't like fast food. That's the problem; I love it. Because of that I try to avoid it like the plague. Sometimes it doesn't work out though.) Wednesday Donna had a hair appointment and I had an errand to run, so we grabbed some dinner out. Thursday we were taking the wedding band out to scope the venue, so we made some sandwiches and had a picnic after work. Friday MJ had a soccer game and after that we had tickets to the Redhawks game. Hello foot long chili dog and beer, goodbye nutrition.

So along comes Saturday and it's time to make something at home before I forget how. I'm in the mood for chicken, so I thaw some. MJ's been talking lately about how much she loves spinach dip, so it occurs to me that I could make a nice little sauce that, while no where near as thick as a dip, would still have the flavor. So I whip one up and she loved it.

Asiago Spinach Sauce

1/2 cup asiago cheese (grated)
1/2 cup of fresh spinach (chopped)
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt

Okay, before we get into the sauce (which is super easy -- I don't know why I'm wasting your time with posting this, actually), a quick word about the chicken. I just cooked this in a little olive oil over high heat to sear it. I seasoned it with sea salt, fresh black pepper, chili powder and tarragon. I know that that combination might make you scratch your head. I have no doubt that if Gordon Ramsey were reading this, he would be sitting at his computer laughing and calling me clever things like "bloody tosser". That's okay. Believe me if you will: that combination worked.

As for the sauce, it starts with a classic cream base: melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour and whisk until blended. Add the cream and chicken stock and up the heat to medium-high. Be sure to keep whisking so that it doesn't clump. Once it start to boil, add the spinach, salt and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium low. If the sauce gets too thick you might need to add some more chicken stock. Basically, you want it to be thick enough so that it doesn't run all over the place, but not so thick that it won't run a bit when you put it on a plate. Think more gravy than syrup. Add the cheese just before you start plating.

Speaking of plating: I put a few tablespoons on the plate first, then place the chicken breast ever-so-lovingly on top. This sauce is very rich and flavorful; a little goes a long way. You definitely don't need to drown the chicken with it.

I cooked some fresh green beans in garlic, olive oil and a little white wine and whipped up some garlic mashed potatoes to round out the dish (I'll post that recipe some day). I also quartered some mushrooms and saute├Ęd them in a little butter and garlic (seasoning with a little salt and pepper) because, hey why not.

As for the drink part of this meal, I stayed true to my current obsession with malbecs. Tonight it was a 2008 Alamos. It was a pretty heavy wine, though it apparently isn't a pure malbec. According to this review it's got some cabernet in it. Whatever. It was actually pretty good. Very spicy and heavy. I got it for $10, so, hey, you can't go wrong. I'm still drinking it as I type this so make of that what you will.

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