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Winter Saturday Dinner

So, Winter has chosen to be forceful this year. In Pennsylvania, there have been mornings and afternoons of quiet beauty as the large snowflakes blew and fell. There have been cold, cold days and nights when I feel every single draft in my house. Scarves and gloves and hats. Walking carefully on the sidewalk, side-stepping the patches of ice that will not thaw.
Winter has chosen to be heard this year in southeastern Pennsylvania, among other places, of course.  Or perhaps I am choosing to hear it. I like the quiet of an evening when the snow is coming and everyone is inside. I like that quiet on a Saturday afternoon, too.

On this, another weekend day of snow this month, I decided to make something fun for dinner. Among my cookbooks, I have a binder full of recipes that I've collected from magazines and emails, so I started there. I found these two, both from 2002-2004 Martha Stewart Living, and then decided to add Madeleines for dessert. A few years ago, my dear friend Gritta sent me the recipe and a silicone Madeleine cooking sheet for Christmas. A superb gift. I haven't made them in about a year. Tonight was the night. (The link below is not the one she sent me, but I can't find that one online. So it will be my secret recipe :-)

Also throughout this cooking extravaganza, I was (and still am) importing all of my CD's into iTunes (after the loss and fixing of my laptop's hard drive). How I am selecting what to import and in what order is for another post. Some of the first few: The Sweet and Lowdown soundtrack, Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald, Nick Drake, Rusted Root.

Tonight's Menu
Warm Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Salad
Risotto with Butter and Parmesean
Madeleines
Risotto with Butter and Parmesean

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (do not rinse)
1 cup dry white wine
3-4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
STEP 1
In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Gently heat broth; keep warm.
risotto mise en place

Risotto1

risotto2
I forgot to heat the broth. I wonder how much a difference that makes.

STEP 2
Add about 1/2 cup of warm broth. Cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes total. The rice should be tender (but not mushy) and suspended in liquid with the consistency of heavy cream.

risotto4

STEP 3
Remove pan from heat.Stir in Parmesan and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will continue to thicken as it sits).
rosotto5
I used inexpensive shaved Parmesan, which melted into a stringy mess. I also made the mistake of making the risotto first, not reading the "serve immediately" instructions until it was too late. I used my enameled 6-quart dutch oven, which was perfect for cooking it, then set it aside with the lid askew. On to the chicken....

Warm Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Salad
INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
2 whole boneless chicken breasts, skin on, split
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped fine
10 white mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
4 handfuls fresh baby or flat-leaf spinach, (8 to 10 ounces), stems cut

DIRECTIONS
STEP 1
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Press a scant tablespoon parsley onto skin side of each breast. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Place breasts, skin side down, in skillet; cook until golden, about 8 minutes per side.

I used skinless breasts and halved them. Usually, I trim all of the fat and cartilage from chicken breasts, but I left it intact since I didn't have the skins. I cooked them about 5 minutes per side.
chic  mise en place

chic1

STEP 2
Remove chicken from skillet, and transfer to a roasting pan. Place roasting pan in oven. Roast until chicken cooks through, 15 to 20 minutes.

STEP 3
Meanwhile, return skillet to stove. Add onion; cook, stirring, until just golden, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine; scrape skillet's bottom to release cooked-on juices. Cook until wine is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar; cook 1 minute more. Stir in remaining parsley; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; stir in butter.

This is the fun part! The onions and mushrooms were cooking nicely and smelled wonderful. I was stirring constantly, as the bottom of the pan started to brown. But as soon as I added the wine, magic! All of the brown goodness scraped right up, and the sauce began.
mushrooms

mushroom sauce
STEP 4
Remove chicken from oven. Place spinach on plates. Slice each breast into sixths; arrange over spinach. Spoon mushroom mixture over chicken, drizzling juices over spinach, and serve.

The risotto tasted okay at this point, but I had to warm it up. I set the dutch oven on high and added another cup of chicken stock, which worked well. The risotto warmed up and absorbed the stock quickly. It also evened the Parmesan.
This was a hearty meal, full of flavors, but they all worked together. Nothing overpowered anything else. The texture of the chicken with the raw spinach was lovely. Has I used chicken breasts with skins, they would have been a bit jucier. But it was delicious and satisfying.

Served with bread and Madeleines for dessert.
dinner closeup

dinner table

madeleines mise en place

Madeleines

A good evening in the kitchen. A memorable candle-lit meal with my husband. Leftovers. A really nice snow day all around. And I think my kitchen is my favorite room in the house. If I have to choose....
recipe stand

my stove

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