Chicken in Red Pepper and Spinach Sauce: No Blender Needed
Chicken in Red Pepper and Spinach Sauce is the result of my efforts to create a main dish that would complement pasta but that doesn't focus on tomatoes. I also wanted something that's a bit different from the usual Alfredo sauce. On the internet, I found multiple versions of red pepper sauce, most of which required whirring the hot sauce in the blender. That isn't going to happen. The technique risks splattering hot sauce all over the kitchen--yes, even with the lid on--and requires the extra steps of hauling out and washing the blender after processing the sauce. Given that I'm sometimes time crunched as well as lazy (and don't want hot sauce all over me), I decided to focus on making a sauce that's less labor intensive and that could be pulled together in minutes to turn thinly sliced sauteed chicken breasts into something extraordinary. The resulting sauce is comparatively light. It uses low-fat milk rather than cream and just a bit of Parmesan cheese for salty, nutty flavor. Sweet roasted bell peppers and spinach provide flavor and beautiful color to the dish, making it company-worthy even on a weeknight. Because the chicken is thinly sliced, you need to saute it only a few minutes on each side, then remove it from the pan to cook the sauce. Adding the chicken back to the pan after the sauce cooks rewarms the chicken and ensures that it stays moist. This isn't a "rubber chicken" dish! Serve the chicken and sauce with pasta, a salad, and perhaps some fresh bread for a great, reasonably quick dinner.
Note: For an even quicker dinner, skip sauteing the chicken and add pre-cooked chopped or shredded chicken or turkey to the sauce after you've prepared it. Leftover rotisserie chicken or turkey is just fine!
Chicken in Red Pepper and Spinach Sauce -- Serves 4
2-3 tablespoons of canola oil
16-20 ounces of thinly-sliced chicken breasts (about 1/4-1/3-inch thick)
1/3 cup, plus 1/2 cup of flour, divided
1/2 cup of chopped onion
1/2 cup of chopped roasted red bell pepper (from a jar is just fine)
5-6 handfuls of fresh spinach (about 5 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon of lemon pepper
1 1/2 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth (or 1 1/2 cups of water and 1-2
teaspoons of reduced sodium chicken "Better Than Bullion")
1/2 cup of white wine
1 cup of low-fat milk
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan (optional)
Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat and add about 1 tablespoon of oil. While the pan and oil heat, place the chicken, 1/3 cup of flour, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and shake it gently to coat the chicken with the flour. Saute the chicken, a few pieces at a time, on both sides for about 3 minutes per side or until browned on both sides. Remove the chicken to a plate and saute the remaining chicken slices, adding a little more oil, as necessary, and removing the remaining chicken after it has cooked to the plate. Add the remaining oil to the pan and then add the onions. Saute the onions for 5-6 minutes. Add the roasted bell peppers, spinach, garlic powder, salt, and lemon pepper to the pan. Saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Pour in the chicken broth and wine and bring the contents of the pan to a boil, stirring the mixture periodically. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pan, and let the mixture simmer for 5-10 minutes or until it has reduced by about one-third. While the mixture cooks, whisk together the milk and 1/2 cup of flour until smooth. When the mixture in the pan has reduced, whisk in the flour mixture. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and the sour cream. Add the chicken back to the pan, spoon the sauce over it, and turn off the heat. Let the chicken sit in the sauce for a few minutes. If you'd like, top the chicken and sauce with the shredded Parmesan cheese just before serving it.