Sunday, March 2, 2008

Creamy Chicken and Asparagus on Toast

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Here is yet another dish from 365: No Repeats (otherwise known as the Rachael Ray cookbook that I rely upon the most) that was utterly satisfying and yummy. I have combed through this particular cookbook many, MANY times, and often my eyes lit upon the recipe for "Creamy Chicken and Asparagus on Toast." Somehow I always felt the ingredient list was rather decadent, including Black Forest ham, chicken, half and half, and (my mouth is watering thinking of it), Gruyere cheese (Gruyere cheese, like rice cookers, deserves its own special post). Needless to say, after dismissing it time after time with healthy eating in mind, I finally decided that I must give in and try it.

One of the best parts of the dish is the Provence-like flavors that result in the combination of sauteed onions, thyme, garlic, and salt and pepper. This central element delicately permeates the rest of the dish, in a wonderful, non-overpowering way. After the aforementioned ingredients are sauteed (until the onions are translucent-the "rule" for sauteed onions), they are removed from the pan to make room for chicken breast, which is then nicely browned in preparation for the toasts.

The "toasts" are created from a single slender baguette, which is split in half lengthwise and then quartered into 4 roughly even portions. The recipe calls for scraping a bit of the extraneous bread from the cavity of the loaf and discarding it, but as I had a rather small baguette to begin with, I dispensed with this instruction and used all of my bread. Each piece is then buttered with a delicious compound butter of sorts, which I made in one of my trusty green ramekins by churning a cold chunk of butter with chopped flat leaf parsley and freshly ground pepper and salt. The bread is then placed into the oven until it is a light golden brown.

While the bread is toasting, the onion mixture is tossed back into the pan with the chicken and dusted with flour. A bit of white wine, chicken stock, and half and half are added to create a thick, creamy sauce. Bright green lengths of asparagus and chopped ham are then stirred in. The toasts are removed from the oven, and spoonfuls of the creamy chicken are lightly settled onto each large piece. Each "toast" is topped with a mixture of shredded Gruyere and bread crumbs. They are promptly shoved back into the oven to melt and brown the cheese.

While the final result may not be the most attractive dish I have ever made, appearance most certainly belies taste. The toasts are delicious, with a heavenly combination of flavors-a bitter bite of asparagus, salty ham, hearty chicken, creamy sauce, all topped with sharp Gruyere....hmmmmm! I'm almost tempted to make it this very evening!