Baked Chicken Florentine Pasta and Variations

Baked Chicken Florentine Pasta and Variations

A local restaurant used to make this great Chicken Florentine Pasta with a yummy garlic cream sauce that I loved.  Last time I ordered it to go it was dry and not very yummy at all.  SO, I decided to try to make it myself.  Then I got carried away, threw in several other ingredients and ended up with something a bit over the top.  Below is the dish I actually made, along with some suggested, simpler variations . . . Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (12 oz.) dry pasta (I used Penne Rigate, but anything substantial will do)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbls. oil
  • 1 tsp Penzey’s Florida Seasoned Pepper (this is a combo of pepper, lemon and orange peel, garlic and onion, but feel free to use any salt free seasoning that works well on chicken)
  • 3-5 oz. baby spinach, cleaned
  • 1 tsp. Italian Herb Seasoning (or a combination of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and cracked rosemary)
  • 1 oz sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in 1/2 cup of boiling water (or approx. 1/3 cup of the oil soaked variety), drained & julienned (optional)
  • 6 oz. jar marinated artichoke heart quarters, drained (I cut each one in half, but feel free to use as is) (optional)
  • 4 oz. goat cheese (optional)
  • 4 Tbls. butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 4 Tbls. flour
  • 3 cups milk and/or half&half
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

There are three basic components to this dish: pasta, a chicken and vegetable sauté, garlic cream sauce, each prepared separately and then baked together in a 3-quart casserole.  You can make the parts one at a time and set aside or all at once, depending on your stovetop-juggling skills.

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease a 3-quart casserole.

Heat 3-4 quarts of water to boiling.  Salt or not as you prefer.  Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box/bag and according to your preferred tenderness.  Drain, set aside.

While the pasta is cooking and you prepare the other ingredients, marinate the chicken in the 2 Tbls. oil and the Florida Seasoned Pepper.

If your sun-dried tomatoes need rehydrating, make sure you have done that.

Prepare your garlic cream sauce: Melt the 4 Tbls. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and cook gently for about a minute.  Do NOT let it brown or burn!  Gradually add the flour to make a roux.  Once all the flour is added, cook for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour.  Now gradually add the milk or half&half, whisking or stirring frequently.  You want a medium-thick cream sauce.  Once the sauce will coat the back of a spoon (or is the thickness you desire), turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.

Prepare the chicken and vegetable sauté: Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and its oil/spice marinade.  Cook until the chicken has lost it pinkness.  Stir in the Italian Herb Seasoning and the sun-dried tomatoes.  Stir in the artichoke hearts.  Toss in the spinach; cover and cook until the spinach wilts.

Assemble: Combine the pasta and the chicken/vegetable mixture.  Place half into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle on half of the goat cheese.  Add the remaining pasta mixture and the remaining goat cheese.  Stir gently to combine.  Pour the garlic cream sauce over the entire contents of the casserole dish.  Once again, stir GENTLY to combine.  Finally, sprinkle the grated mozzarella over the top.

Cover and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly.  You might want to remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to brown the top.

Notes & Variations

  • Technically, Chicken Florentine is just chicken and spinach in a cream sauce served over rice or pasta.  Thus, the other vegetables in the sauté are “optional”.  Same with the goat cheese.  I loved how they all combined in the dish I made, but feel free to simplify as your wallet and palate dictate!
  • I love baked pasta dishes because the time in the oven gives me time to relax, talk to guests, make a salad and/or do some dishes.  If you prefer, I’m fairly certain you could combine everything as described above and just serve as is without baking.  You might want to make the cream sauce a bit thicker (it thickens up a bit in the oven).
  • For those of you cutting calories, if you add a bit a water to the sauté and stir the goat cheese into the warm sauté after everything else is cooked, you should have enough of a “sauce” to serve over the pasta without making the cream sauce at all.

Enjoy!

Copyright © 2010, Lucinda DeWitt

Chicken Flautas and Enchiladas

Over the weekend I discovered in the freezer a container labeled “Red Enchilada Sauce, March 2010” and realized that I had neglected to post some of the recipes I made during Lent.  Part of my cutting back on food expenses during Lent involved using what I already had in the freezer and pantry.  One thing I had was cooked diced turkey from a winter turkey roast.  This recipe is a great way to use leftover turkey or chicken.  It works with either light or dark meat.

I’m also trying a new format for posting the recipes.  I’ll be including them within the post (which makes them easier to find via search), but will still include them on separate permanent pages as well (which makes them easier to print without all of my commentary).  The links to the separate printable recipe pages appear in the column on the right and on the Recipe Index page.

Chicken Filling for Flautas or Enchiladas

(could probably use in burritos too!)

Ingredients

2-3 cups cooked, diced chicken (see note below)
3 Tbls oil, plus more for frying (if making flautas)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles
1-2 jalapeños, minced (or 1 large spoonful of canned diced jalapeños, NOT the pickled kind)
1/2 to 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper, to taste
tortillas (see note below)

If making enchiladas you will also need Red Enchilada Sauce (recipe below), shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack or colbyjack), and anything else you like to put in or on enchiladas (lettuce, avocado, black olives).

Directions

Saute onion in 3 Tbls oil in large pan.  Add chicken and saute.  Add remaining ingredients except tortillas.  Cook over low-medium heat until everything is combined nicely and most of the liquid has evaporated.  (If you are going to be frying flautas you will want the filling nearly dry.  For enchiladas or burritos you can leave it more moist.) Remove from heat.

Soften tortillas by (1) warming briefly, 30 seconds a side, in a dry, hot frying pan or (2) dipping briefly, 5-10 seconds, in hot frying oil or (3) wrapping in foil and placing in a warm oven for 10-15 minutes or (4) wrapping in damp paper towels and heating in the microwave on high for 60 seconds.  Everyone has their thoughts/preferences on the best way to soften tortillas. The purpose is to make them easier to roll without breaking or tearing. If they are REALLY fresh, you may be able to skip this step altogether.

For flautas: Roll heaping Tbls. of chicken into each softened tortilla.  Close with toothpick. Fry 2 at a time in hot oil for approximately 90 seconds (or until lightly golden brown).  Drain on paper towels.  Enjoy!  I love these dipped in Chile con Queso (gringo/cheaters recipe below), but salsa and sour cream would work as well.

For enchiladas: Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place a thin layer of red enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish.  Spoon 1-2 heaping Tbls. of filling onto a tortilla.  Add cheese (if desired).  Roll and place seam side down in baking dish.  Continue with remaining filling and tortillas.  Once they are all in the baking dish, pour some red enchilada sauce over them (how much depends on how dry/wet you like them).  Sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Cover the dish with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake a few minutes more until cheese is nicely melted.  Serve with rice and beans if desired.

Easy Red Enchilada Sauce

Over medium heat in a medium saucepan, blend 2 Tbls shortening with 2 Tbls flour. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup chili powder until oil is absorbed.  Slowly add 2 cups liquid (water or broth or tomato juice or tomato sauce or a combination).  Salt to taste.  Simmer 20 minutes.  See note below about chili powder vs. ground chili peppers.

Easy Chile con Queso

Yes, the secret ingredient for an easy creamy chile con queso is Velveeta.  It really does make a wonderful cheese sauce . . . You can try this with “real” cheese, but you will need to be very careful about keeping it at just the right temperature so that the oil doesn’t separate out from the cheese curds . . .

1/2 cup butter
1 small/medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup flour (Wondra works well, but AP is fine)
2 to 2-1/2 cups milk
2-3 4oz. cans chopped green chiles
12-16 oz. Velveeta cheese, diced (look for it near, but not in, the dairy section 🙂
3-4 fresh Jalapeño peppers, chopped (or a big spoonful of canned diced Jalapeños, not pickled)

Saute onion in butter until tender.  Add flour, gradually, stirring constantly.  Cook for 2-3 minutes over med-low heat.  Gradually add 2 cups of the milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, continue stirring.  You should end up with a thick, creamy white sauce (see note).  Add chiles and jalapeños and simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes.  Add cheese, stir until melted.  Add remaining milk if needed for thinning.  Note: the cheese will thin the sauce so be sure the white sauce is thicker than desired for dip and reserve some of the milk so you can adjust at the end.

Notes

  • Chicken: I usually make this filling with chicken or turkey left over from a roasted bird.  If you haven’t roasted a chicken lately, no worries.  You can use 4 small cans of chicken meat (sold near the cans of tuna) or  3-4 chicken breasts (or other pieces) salted and poached in water or broth.  I suppose you could also dice raw chicken and just increase the time on the saute in the recipe above.  Just make sure the chicken is cooked before adding the other ingredients.
  • Tortillas: I prefer flour tortillas, though I think corn are more traditional for flautas and enchiladas.  If you are making flautas you will need tortillas small enough to fit in your fryer (I have a small fry daddy, so I use the small. 6-8″ flour tortillas for flautas, but larger ones for enchiladas and burritos).
  • The chicken filling recipe is great and versatile as is (the way it was taught to me), but could probably use some additional spices: cumin, corriander, chili powder.  Start with 1/2 tsp. of each and see what you think.
  • Chili Powder is NOT the same as Ground Chili Peppers.  Chili powder contains ground chili peppers PLUS spices like cumin, garlic and Mexican oregano.  If you use plain ground chili peppers for the Red Enchilada Sauce, you will probably want to spice it up with some spices.  For a discussion of “chile” vs “chili” see http://itsfiveoclocksomewhere.blogspot.com/2007/08/chile-vs-chili.html; I’m not very good at using them consistently . . .

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Ethiopian Food

Tonight I managed my first foray into cooking Ethiopian food.

Several years ago I first tried Ethiopian food at our local food coop. A local restaurant provided the coop with injera and a variety of Ethiopian dishes to go with it: several lentil stew variations, spicy green beans, and  a beet/potato/apple? combination.  Then the restaurant changed hands and the selection at the coop got pretty narrow (lentils, but not much else).

Recently I gathered a pile of recipes (from cookbooks and the internet) and bought some berberé (an Ethiopian Spice Mixture essential to almost every dish).  I decided I would try to make Doro Wat (Chicken Stew), Mesir Wat (lentil stew), and spicy green beans (which I could not find in any Ethiopian cookbook, so I used an Indian recipe that seemed similar to the dish I remembered).

Below are some pictures.  Will post recipes once I figure out exactly how I merged the several recipes I had for each dish.

Update 4/26/10: The recipes are posted.  You can find them in the recipe list to the right, on the Recipe Index page, or via

Doro Wat (Spicy Chicken Stew)

Mesir Wat (Spicy Lentil Stew)

Addictive Indian-style Green Beans

Doro Wat

Doro Wat (Spicy Chicken Stew)

Yes, those are hard boiled eggs in the stew . . . it’s a “chicken and the egg” thing 🙂

Miser Wat

Mesir Wat (Spicy Lentil Stew)

Spicy Green Beans

“Addictive Spicy Green Beans”

Ethiopian Platter

Ethiopian Platter (clockwise from top left: Mesir Wat, Doro Wat, Spicy Green Beans) served on Injera Bread and eaten with your fingers