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Food

Rethinking Chicken Florentine with clearer, brighter flavors

Chicken Florentine is a buffet-line favorite featuring chicken breast and spinach in a mild cream-and-Parmesan sauce – sometimes stuffed inside, sometimes stacked on top.

All of these components are good, but this dish can often be stodgy (think old-fashioned casserole) or fussy (involving dredging chicken in flour and sauteeing).

We wanted a simplified recipe for an elegant dish with clearer, brighter flavors.

Braising was the perfect technique to achieve this: For flavor, we seared the chicken breasts first, cooked aromatics and added our cooking liquid (a balanced mix of water and chicken broth enriched with a modest amount of cream), and then simmered the chicken in the reducing sauce until perfectly cooked.

After we topped the tender chicken with some sautéed spinach and the cream sauce, it needed just a quick run under the broiler to become appealingly golden on top.

We like tender, quick-cooking bagged baby spinach here; if using curly-leaf spinach, chop it before cooking.

Chicken Florentine

Servings: 4-6

Start to finish: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 ounces (12 cups) baby spinach

4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless

chicken breasts, trimmed

Salt and pepper

1 shallot, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1¼ cups chicken broth

1¼ cups water

1 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus

1 teaspoon juice

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer spinach to colander set over bowl and press with spoon to release excess liquid; discard liquid.

Pat chicken breasts dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Wipe out pan with paper towels and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken on both sides until golden, about 4 minutes.

Add shallot and garlic to skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, water and cream and bring to boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes; transfer chicken to large plate and tent with aluminum foil. Continue to simmer sauce until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan and lemon zest and juice.

Cut breasts crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange on broiler-safe platter. Scatter spinach over chicken and pour sauce over spinach. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan and broil until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve.

• Nutrition information per serving: 334 calories; 208 calories from fat; 23 g fat (11 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 128 mg cholesterol; 400 mg sodium; 5 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 25 g protein

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