Argh!! It's so hard to get going on a dark Monday morning, especially after a crazy busy weekend with virtually no down time! Even for someone who cooks a lot and usually looks forward to it, the prospect of coming up with something for dinner on days like these seems daunting. That's when I turn to comfort meals that can all be prepared in one pan without any fussy ingredients, like this wonderfully satisfying and make-in-half-an-hour, Creamy Chicken Spinach Bake. It'll recharge you, body and soul! I guarantee!!
This casserole combines so many things that I love and as usual, I'm going to tell you about them. First, the whole dish is topped with olive oil-drizzled, crunchy cubes of french bread, so with each bite you get a wonderful combination of crunchy topping and creamy filling!
Then there's the spinach and the way it adds so much flavor, texture and color and goes so well with all the other ingredients. Plus, I'm a little bit of a Popeye when it comes to the green stuff!!
And speaking of easy, can we talk about the fact that you can use leftover or rotisserie chicken for the filling which means you're not starting from scratch--a huge bonus when you're pressed for time. Plus if you like, you can also assemble this and then refrigerate it uncooked, a day head. Then you just have to add the bread, pop it in the oven for about 10-15 minutes and voila--dinner is served! It's enough to make you jump up and dance, if only you had the energy!
And if you're looking for comfort food, this ranks right up there with mac & cheese! Think moist bits of chicken covered in a light creamy garlic sauce with ribbons of tender spinach and the crunch of crisped French bread croutons. One bite and all is right with the world again!!!
Creamy Chicken Spinach Bake
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes: Bake Time: 8-10 minutes
2 cups torn French or Italian bread
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 cups packed flat-leaf spinach, washed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half-and-half (you can use fat-free if you like, it'll just be a little less creamy)
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken breast or leftover chicken breast
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Combine the bread and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium-sized bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and set aside.
2. Into a medium pot, place 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until completely wilted. Transfer to a colander and run cold water over it. Let drain and then squeeze out the excess water by handfuls over the sink. Chop coarsely and set aside.
3. Use the same pot but just wipe clean and add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and heat ver medium. Add the onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 8-9 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the onion is softened. Add the wine and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the wine is almost totally evaporated. Add the flour and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. Then whisk in the half-and-half and the lemon juice and turn the heat up high to bring the mixture to a boil.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach and chicken. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the entire mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Top with the bread and bake for about 10 minutes until the bread is golden brown and the filling is bubbly and hot. Serve immediately.
5. The entire casserole, minus the bread topping can be made one day ahead and left unbaked but covered in the refrigerator. Before baking add the bread. You may need to cook it a bit longer if you don't first bring it to room temperature.
Note: Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.