Chicken Comté Florentine

Looking for the best Chicken Florentine recipe? Try mine—it calls on Comté cheese for extra richness of flavor and a touch of curry for intrigue. But first, a little story about a good buddy of mine who also loves this particular chicken florentine recipe.

Chicken Florentine recipe with Comté and a touch of curry. When traveling in the Comté region of France, I noticed chefs often combined a bit of curry in recipes with the regions famed Comté cheese. I followed suit for this easy Chicken Florentine recipe, and the results are divine.

One of my favorite memories from college is of a casual dinner club a group of pals put together in our senior year. Every Sunday night, one of us would host a dinner we’d all share, before going our separate ways to study. It was never a party night—in fact, we never drank at these events at all. It was simply a way to nourish each other before we hunkered down for the coming week of classes.

Years later, I dined out with my friend Doug, one of the guys in that group. When I picked up the tab for dinner, he protested. I said, “This is in repayment for the beef tenderloin you made for us in our dinner club—when the rest of us were always making chili or lentil soup when it was our turn to cook.”

He laughed and said, “Wini, you are the only person in the world who would remember that.”

My friend Doug, who now lives in Adelaide, Australia, and is co-owner of the Yankee Cafe. Photo credit.

When you’ve had a steady diet of cheap pasta, hamburger and legumes, then something as opulent as a beef tenderloin comes along, it’s not something you forget too soon. Plus, Doug was not only a generous person, he was also an excellent cook before being a great home cook was cool. The first time I ever tasted beurre blanc was not in France, but in his Seattle apartment, where he moved in his 20s. He now owns a restaurant in Adelaide, Australia, with his life-partner Steve. Their place is called the Yankee Cafe. Doug is, of course, the Yankee and the cook; Australian-born Steve runs the front of the house. If you ever get to that part of the world, stop by. I sure hope to do so someday myself.

What does that little memory have to do with my Chicken Comté Florentine? It’s all about Doug. When I published “The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day,” Doug was first in line to buy it, cook something from it, and write me with enthusiasm about it. He especially liked the recipe below, and told me that he cooked it for an intimate dinner party, where it was a great hit.

So, take it from a guy who served an unforgettable beef tenderloin out of the tiny kitchen in his studenty and beat little apartment in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1981. This recipe is a good one.

Chicken Comté Florentine
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
While I love Comté, you can use any cheese you like, as long as it grates and melts well.
Ingredients
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1¼ pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet curry powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup shredded Comté, Swiss Gruyère, or Emmentaler cheese
  • 16 ounces fresh spinach, washed, drained and tough stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Instructions
  1. Place chicken breasts, one at a time, between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound until ¼ inch thick. (Or slice chicken breasts in horizontally into two thin scallops, or butterfly if small.) Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until no longer pink inside, turning once. Transfer to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. For sauce, in a small saucepan, cook and stir shallots in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter until tender but not brown. Add flour and curry powder; cook and stir briefly to form a paste. Slowly add milk, whisking with a wire whisk until combined. Bring to boiling; cook and stir until the mixture boils and thickens; cook and stir two minutes more. Stir in ½ cup of the cheese until melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add spinach, cooking and turning just until wilted (you may need to do this in two batches). Do not overcook—a few remaining unwilted leaves is fine.
  5. Transfer spinach to a shallow flameproof baking dish. Top with the cooked chicken breasts. Top with sauce and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.
  6. Broil for 4 to 6 minutes or until cheese and sauce bubble and begin to brown.

 

 

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What? Make Puff Pastry from Scratch? It's Easier Than You Think

Make your own puff pastry—then transform it into this stunning Brie en Croute.

Greetings, mes amis. Today, I’m really happy to host a guest post from Beeta Hashempour, a charming SoCal baker who has recently rolled out some French baking classes via video. In this compelling story, she talks about her “a-ha” moment when she first discovered la difference between American and French breads … and how she turned this newfound love into a career. Best of all, she’s offering everyone a free video tutorial on how to make beautiful puff pastry, from scratch. Check it out.

Beeta Hashempour, baking instructor extraordinaire

My French-Bread Epiphany
by Beeta Hashempour

When people ask me how I’ve found my way into the culinary arts and teaching French bread and pastry classes, I tell them about my first trip to Paris.

Growing up, I had never been a real Francophile. Sure, I enjoyed a good croissant, French fashion, and hoped to see the Eiffel Tower one day, but that was the extent of my knowledge and passion for France. If anything, as someone who grew up in Southern California, I was more acquainted with the Mexican culture than French. It wasn’t until college, when my best friend decided to study abroad in Paris, that I prioritized France on my bucket list and actually booked a ticket to the City of Lights.

On my first morning in the city, I had decided to take a stroll in search of some coffee and breakfast. I passed by a man carrying 3 or 4 baguettes in his arms, and thought to myself, “Jeeze, that’s a whole lot of baguettes!” Back home in the States, I was not accustomed to buying French bread that often. The bread back home was nothing special, so you wouldn’t have found me eagerly carrying home more than 1 loaf or baguette like this man in Paris had.

I decided to continue walking in the direction the man had just come from until I stumbled upon a bakery. As I stepped into the quaint and cozy boulangerie, I immediately felt my senses invaded by the delicious scent of yeast and butter. It was positively intoxicating. I had a pretty good feeling that I was about to have a life-changing experience. If nothing else, I would forever remember that bakery for the heavenly aroma that had enveloped my senses.

I decided to order a croissant for breakfast and a baguette to-go. The croissant was pure perfection. The perfectly golden flakes were already falling off the croissant as the cashier slipped one into a paper bag and handed it over to me. After one buttery taste, I quickly realized that this truly French croissant put all the coffee shop ones back home to shame.

Simply irresistible. And accessible, thanks to Beeta’s cooking classes.

Later that day, as I sat around my friend’s dining table for lunch, I cut into the baguette I had brought home for us. I literally found myself having an a-ha moment as I ate the bread. So this is what real bread tastes like!

The baguette wasn’t just good; it was excellent in every meaning of the word. My friend and I easily polished off that baguette with our meal, and I suddenly realized exactly why that passerby with the arm full of baguettes was so eager to take home more than one.

Coming back home to California, I felt like I’d been changed. My eyes had been opened and I could never look at bread and pastries the same way. The selection at my local markets and coffee shops just seemed so disappointing after having experienced the real deal.

So that’s when I decided that making my own bread and pastries was the next best thing after enjoying them in Paris. I started buying staple French cookbooks from Jacques Pepin, Le Cordon Bleu, and Julia Child, trying my hand at a variety of recipes. I practiced the recipes over and over until I was able to perfect them. Since then, I’ve been making my own crusty baguettes and flaky croissants at home, sharing my homemade creations with family and friends.

The positive feedback from my loved ones was not just great to hear, but inspiring as well. People were constantly asking me for my recipes. I’d hear, “How do you make your croissants so flaky?” or “How did you get this loaf of brioche so fluffy?”

I realized that I wasn’t the only one who loved a really good loaf of French bread or tantalizing pastry, so I decided I would host classes teaching others exactly how they can create French staples at home. I began enrolling in bread and pastry classes at home and abroad when I was visiting France, trying to learn what routines and formats worked best for instructing classes and what students enjoyed the most. One day, I finally felt enough confidence to host a French bread and pastry class in my own kitchen, and I’ve been happily instructing ever since!

I love working with students, but more than that, I love showing just how gratifying it can be to create your own homemade baked goods. There’s nothing like a freshly baked pastry to go alongside your morning cup of coffee or tea, and I love when my students not only realize that but feel capable enough to make it happen. That said, I suggest you don’t just take my word for it, but instead go ahead and try your own hand at homemade pastry.

Right now, I’m hosting a completely free puff pastry challenge where I will show you how to make your own homemade puff pastry in less than 10 minutes. The lesson provides exclusive content from my master French bread and pastry course, including step-by-step instructions and video so you can see exactly how easy it is to make your own pastry at home!

Learn more about the challenge here.

 

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Brussels Sprouts, Prosciutto, and Manchego Salad

Here’s the recipe for the best brussels sprouts salad, including how to keep the vibrant-green color of this veggie intact.

The best Brussels sprouts salad I’ve ever tasted comes via Chef Lynn Pritchard of Table 128 Bistro + Bar in Des Moines, Iowa. And I snagged the recipe.

As many of you know, when I’m not in France, I’m in the great state of Iowa, where I’ve been writing about food for 20 years, for both local and national publications. One of my favorite assignments is covering the ever-advancing Des Moines dining scene for dsm magazine.

A while back, I started a new feature called “I Snagged the Recipe,” in which I sweet-talk our best local chefs into sharing one of their signature recipes with me. I absolutely insist on going into their kitchen with them and watching them make it. Tips and tricks that come naturally to them are the type of things they’ll omit when they just bang out a recipe’s ingredients and method (which, by the way, most of them hate to do). I watch and I ask questions.

One of my absolute favorite recipes of all time is this Brussels Sprouts, Prosciutto, and Manchego salad, by one of our city’s top chefs, Lynn Pritchard of Table 128. It’s a fabulous fall recipe–hearty and interesting, yet super-fresh, because we’re smack-dab in the middle of the harvest, after all.

PS: At dinner, Chef Pritchard serves this with a fried or poached egg on top as a first course. For me, that would constitute a light supper.

 

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, wilted outer leaves removed, and cut into quarters (about 3 cups)
  • ¼ cup Marcona almonds
  • ¼ cup diced La Quercia prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Champagne vinaigrette (see recipe, step 3)
  • Shaved Manchego cheese
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan bring 2 to 3 quarts salted water to boiling. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook about 2½ minutes or until tender-crisp. Immediately plunge into an ice-water bath. Let stand until Brussels sprouts are cool. Drain well.
  2. In a large bowl, combine Brussels sprouts, almonds, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the sea salt. Stir in the vinaigrette until combined. To serve, arrange salad on 4 serving plates; top each with shaved manchego.
  3. Champagne Vinaigrette:
  4. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons grapeseed or sunflower oil,
  5. tablespoon champagne vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk to combine.

Table 128 chef-owner Lynn Pritchard shared these tips:

• The better the Brussels sprouts, the better the salad. Table 128 buys from local producers during the growing season
• Salt the cooking water well. “It should be salty like the sea,” Pritchard advises
• Use plenty of water and don’t overcrowd the pan—the water should return to boil quickly after adding the Brussels sprouts. Keep in mind the “boil-and-shock” method (that is, the quick cooking/quick cooling technique) is the key to the bright green color of the salad
• “Drain the Brussels sprouts aggressively,” Pritchard emphasizes. “They want to hold on to moisture.
• Do not be tempted to use extra-virgin olive oil. “It will add too much of its own flavor to the dish,” says Pritchard. A neutral oil, such as grapeseed or sunflower, will let the other ingredients star.

 

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