07 September 2009

When the weather turns

It's amazing how the first taste of fall can shift your mood. One day you're picking tomatoes in the garden, excited about simple summer salads, and the next, you're excited about warm soups and stews.

I still have tomatoes ripening on the vine, but cooler nights, some gray days and temperatures in the 70s have me just a little excited for the next culinary season. It's filled with squash, roasted meats and winter greens. And a big bowl of chili stacked with cheddar cheese and Fritos for watching football.

The other night I made an impromptu fall-ish dish of chicken and mushrooms in a creamy sauce. I served mine atop some mashed potatoes, but I'm thinking it would be delicious over some egg noodles, too. Almost like a chicken strogenoff without the sour cream.

I cooked up chicken tenders, which is basically smaller portions of breast meat. That meant quick cooking, which is a bonus these days. You could, however, substitute chicken thighs or even breasts. If you're using a thicker cut of meat it will take longer to cook. I think if I were using a whole breast, I'd brown it in the pan first and then finish it in the oven while you make the sauce.

Another nice bit about this dish is that it could easily be made ahead and either kept warm or reheated. Serve it with some roasted root veggies, and I'd say this dish just might get you excited about fall, too.

Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

1 pound of raw chicken tenders, patted dry

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

2 cups of whole milk
2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Pour olive oil to coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pan* on medium-high heat. Once oil begins to ripple, add chicken in a single layer, making sure all meat has contact with the bottom of the pan. Cook, without turning, until the meat easily releases and the cooked side it golden brown. Turn to cook the second side. Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan and set aside. Add more oil, if needed, and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are tender; remove and set aside. Add butter and melt until foam disappears. Whisk in flour and cook on low heat about four minutes, stirring, to remove the raw-flour taste. Whisk in milk and bring to a low boil to allow butter and flour mixture to thicken milk. Once sauce begins to thicken, add mushrooms and chicken back to sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
* A pan without a nonstick coating is preferred for this recipe. If using a nonstick pan, the meat may not brown, so simply cook until meat is done in center.

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