Chicken a la florentine is such a light yet creamy meal. The term florentine is french to say from Florence, Italy. It usually means; a meat (can be chicken, pork,egg, etc) on a bed of spinach and a Mornay sauce on top. The mornay sauce is such rich and smooth sauce, it’s basically a bechamel sauce with an extra egg yolk and some a bit of good sharp cheese in it. I know what you are thinking… It’s a calories bomb this sauce… well it is! But for this dish… we’ll use just enough to cover our chicken breast and if used… with relatively lean meat and in moderation, it’s still counts as healthy!
I’ve added a little touch of my favorite nuts to this dish, a little extra flavour; the famous pine nuts. (which are considered a dry fruit in Spain) Those are the caviar of nuts, and the price shows it too. Where I currently live, Catalonia, Spain, they do a great traditional spinach dish with pine nuts, espinaca a la catalana. So, I add it to this dish, I think it gives it an extra crunchy and nutty flavour. Those nuts gain a lot of flavor if you toast them first, I highly recommend to do so, in a pan simply on high heat, move them around until light brown and keep an eye on them… they burn fast.
I happen to live in the middle of pine nuts heaven, Catalonia. Those trees grow 1000m above sea level, and take quite a time to produce those gigantic pine cones in which the nuts are… Once the pine cones fall on the floor in the fall until spring… then the cones are stored until summer comes. Then they simply let the pine cones take a long, nice sunbath and suddenly they dry and open up. But it isn’t over yet… there is yet another shell to crack before getting to the pine nut. Once opened, not all of them are usable for human consummation; they discard the brownish colored ones. Finally, the amount of nuts in one single pine cone isn’t much, so after all this process… you have to forgive the high price.
So enough about those delicious pine nuts and let’s cook!
Chicken a la florentine
Makes 2 portions
- 2 chicken breast
- 1 family size pack of spinach or 2 normal packs (in order words… too much)
- 1 garlic
- 2 tbsp of pine nuts
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- thyme *optional, salt, pepper
The mornay sauce
- 200ml cold milk
- 30g butter
- 30g flour
- nutmeg, salt, pepper
- 1 egg yolk
- 30g gruyere cheese (your favorite sharp cheese)
Bring the oven to 180°C (350F)
- Start by roasting the pine nuts in a pan (big enough for the spinach in step 6), high heat, for about 2 minutes, until light brown
- Add salt, pepper to the chicken, add to breast to the same pan, add the oil, high heat, until light brown on each side
- Put the chicken breast in a oven container of your choice with a few fresh thyme branches in top, cook at 180°C (350F) for 10 more minutes
- In the same pan, deglaze with 1 tbsp of water, or white wine the chicken bits from the bottom of the pan
- Add the garlic, spinach, salt and pepper to the pan, medium high heat, until the spinach loses all it’s juice
- In a small sauce pan, melt the butter, medium high heat, add the flour and mix for a minute or two (until it smells nutty)
- Add the cold milk in one shot and whisk, bring to high heat
- Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and let it get thick while whisking
- Take off the heat once thick enough, add the gruyere cheese, let cool for a minute or two
- Add the yolk to the sauce and mix
- Serve the chicken on the spinach bed, top with the mornay sauce and a few pine nuts.
Serve on white rice or pasta, of simply nothing. Enjoy!