Creamed spinach gets promoted from side to star

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – This recipe promotes saucy creamed spinach from the popular side dish at occasional steakhouse dinners to the centre of the plate, turning it into a healthful and quick one-pan meal.

Simply seasoned chicken breast, which is cooked in the skillet first, provides the satisfying protein for the dish, while its browned bits in the pan add an extra layer of flavour to the spinach. Once the cooked chicken is transferred to a plate, onion and garlic hit the skillet to soften in a little olive oil. Then comes the saucy part, with flour-thickened low-fat milk that’s simmered to a decadent, velvety creaminess – no cream needed.

Ever so convenient, frozen spinach is stirred into that luscious base. (Be sure to defrost the spinach first and squeeze as much water as possible out of it; you can use that water in soups or smoothies.) Then, the creamed spinach is made cheesy and rich with a heap of Parmesan cheese, and fragrant with a handful of fresh basil ribbons.

Basil cream-spinach chicken skillet. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

BASIL CREAM-SPINACH CHICKEN SKILLET

Four servings

Here, saucy creamed spinach is served topped with chicken, promoting it from the occasional steakhouse side dish to the star of the plate for a healthful, quick, one-pan meal. The spinach is made luscious with flour-thickened low-fat milk – no cream needed – along with savoury Parmesan cheese and fragrant, floral basil to infuse the leafy vegetable with sumptuous flavour.

Storage Notes: Leftover spinach and chicken can be refrigerated, in separate containers, for up to three days.

INGREDIENTS

Four pieces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Three-quarter teaspoon kosher salt

Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

Three tablespoons olive oil, divided

Two tablespoons all-purpose flour

Two and three-quarter cups cold low-fat milk

One cup diced yellow onion

Three cloves garlic, minced or finely grated

Two packages chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Quarter cup packed fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, plus whole leaves for garnish

Quarter cup grated Parmesan cheese

Quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

Season the chicken with a quarter teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, heat two tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, four to five minutes per side. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. (If you need to work in batches, cook two pieces of chicken in one tablespoon of oil each time.)

While the chicken cooks, in a medium bowl or pitcher, whisk the flour into the milk until completely dissolved.

In the same skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the spinach and basil and cook, stirring, until warmed through and combined, two to three minutes. Re-whisk the flour-milk mixture and add it to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to simmer. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and saucy, four to five minutes. Stir in the cheese, nutmeg and the remaining half teaspoon of salt and quarter teaspoon of pepper, and add any accumulated juices from the plate of cooked chicken to the pan.

To serve, spoon about three-quarter cup of the creamed spinach onto each serving plate, top each with a piece of chicken and garnish with basil leaves.

Nutrition | Calories: 440; Total Fat: 20g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 109mg; Sodium: 601mg; Carbohydrates: 22g; Dietary Fibre: 5g; Sugar: 3g; Protein: 44g