Healthy Chicken Florentine is a delicate and ancestral dish from France, a simply grilled chicken breast served on a spinach bed with unctuous Mornay sauce and extra grilled pine nuts to bring in a welcomed nutty and crunch touch.
Healthy Chicken Florentine is such a simple and comforting meal. The term florentine is French to say from Florence, Italy. This dish was brought by Italian Catherine de Médicis and her love for spinach over in France when she married Henri II. The dish is usually; a protein (can be chicken, pork, egg, etc.) on a bed of spinach and topped with Mornay sauce (a cheezy Bechamel). Being a calorie bomb, this sauce… I didn’t make the protein swim in like most recipes for Chicken Florentine out there. I’ve simply added a bit to prevent the meal from getting too heavy, and frankly, it’s sufficient!
I’ve added a few grilled pine nuts to add extra flavour and texture. Those are the caviar of nuts, and the price shows it too. In Catalonia, Spain, they do a tremendous traditional spinach dish with pine nuts, Espinaca a la Catalana. Those nuts or seeds are famous around the Mediterranean and always bring lots of flavour to a dish especially if you toast them first. Which I highly recommend doing, in a pan simply on medium-high heat, while constantly moving until light brown.
The main component for a Florentine dish: the spinach! Popeye’s meal of choice! Did you know Spinach is one of those few vegetables better eaten cooked? Because it contains oxalic acid, which stops the absorption of iron and calcium but, luckily, breaks down at high temperatures.
Also, eating spinach with vitamin C (lemon, lime or orange) helps to absorb its iron. Some food combinations are beneficial to one another like this one, Click here if you want to see more magic combos. So never forget a squeeze of fresh lemon in your spinach.
I don’t understand why people are scared of Bechamel or Mornay Sauces… and the terrible ‘roux’ word scares some away too. But if you follow my instructions, you’ll see it’s simple and easy! The main idea here is Cold and Warm. Ensure you cook the flour in butter (or oil) before adding the COLD milk and you’ll be all set!
Other French Recipes
Healthy Chicken Florentine
- 2 chicken breasts
- 8 cups fresh spinach
- 1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 200 ml cold milk
- 30 g butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
- 1 egg yolk
- 30 g Gruyere cheese (or aged cheddar)
- salt and pepper
- Start by roasting the pine nuts in a pan, at medium-high heat, for about 2 minutes, until light brown, and reserve.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and add the breasts to a skillet in olive oil, at medium-high heat, until light brown on each side.
- Put the chicken breasts in an oven-proof container with fresh thyme branches, and cook at 180°C (350F°) for 12 minutes.
- In the same pan, deglaze with 1 tbsp of water or white wine the chicken bits from the bottom.
- Add the garlic, spinach, salt and pepper to the pan on medium-high heat until the spinach falls.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter at 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 constantly whisk while still on medium-high heat.
- Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper and let it get thick while whisking.
- Add the yolk and gruyere cheese to remove the heat once thicker, whisk and let cool for a minute or two.