This recipe is nostalgia with a twist. As a teenager, when I began helping with dinners, I remember three specific meals I made often: Kraft dinner (but even my younger siblings could do that one), spaghetti with red sauce, and a “French” chicken dish consisting of cooked chicken, ready-made Chicken Tonight sauce and noodles. The latter was my favorite. It was different than anything I’d ever had, and the marketing promise that I was creating country French flavors with wine! in the comfort of my kitchen made me feel sophisticated and adventurous. I can still sing part of the jingle, if you’re interested. If we’re close to the same age, I bet you can, too.
I haven’t seen Chicken Tonight in years, and would probably be disappointed to compare the actual product to my memory of those meals I made back in the day. But this accidental homage to my first foray into “French” cooking is worth a taste! I had some leftover roast chicken and a few ounces of creamy, pungent Gorgonzola to use up. I decided to make a sauce with the cheese to put over cubed chicken and gnocchi. I hoped to serve it with carrots, but we had had roasted carrots as a side dish so many times recently, I was looking for a change of pace. Why not put them right in the sauce? I had some small, slender carrots and didn’t even need to peel them. I used rosemary because it goes well with both carrots and chicken, onion for the same reason, and a dry white wine to add some panache to the sauce. With the first taste, I realized my unintentional recreation of that beloved meal from my youth. The sauce is sweet from carrots and onion; the wine gives depth of flavor and the cream and Gorgonzola make it smooth and luscious. I know Gorgonzola is not French… but it works in this sauce, adding a bitter element to balance the sweet carrots and onion. This is a delicious chicken dish, a great way to use up leftovers. I would also consider making the sauce, minus precooked chicken, to serve over baked chicken thighs. With gnocchi, rice or noodles to sop up the extra sauce, you have a quick, hearty winter meal suitable for a busy weeknight, or a lazy Sunday supper. My recipe is scaled for about three portions, so double the ingredients if necessary to feed your crew.
Ah, nostalgia. Even though that sauce of my youth came from a jar, it taught me about classic ingredient pairings– chicken, carrots, rosemary, white wine– and now I can make something better from scratch. What are some of the dishes you remember fondly from childhood? Maybe something you haven’t tasted in years? Have you ever tried to recreate the flavors of a favorite meal from years past? I am tempted now to try making the chop suey my Mom cooked for us, or my Gram’s pan fried noodles. Until then, this chicken dish will do nicely.
Chicken and Carrots in Creamy Wine Sauce (serves 2-3)
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 1/4 c. onion, finely chopped
- 1 c. carrots, cut in thin pennies, peeled if you desire
- 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
- kosher salt & pepper to taste
- 2 T. flour
- 1/4 c. dry white wine (I used pinot gris)
- 1/2 c. whole milk
- 1/2 c. cream
- 1 – 3 oz. Gorgonzola cheese
- 1 c. cooked, cubed chicken*
- cooked gnocchi, rice or pasta to serve
- fresh parsley to garnish
To prepare the sauce, heat the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cut carrots and cook for about 5 mins., until the onions become translucent and the carrots start to soften. Assess here: if your carrots are not softening quickly, they may be thicker than I used. Cook for another few mins. before proceeding if you want.
Add the rosemary, a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of kosher salt to the pan and stir. Sprinkle the vegetables with flour and then stir to coat everything evenly. Continue to cook for about 1-2 mins., stirring constantly, to cook off some of the raw flavor of the flour. Add the white wine to the pan and cook, continuing to stir, until it is reduced down by at least half and the vegetable mixture looks almost dry again.
Add the milk and cream to the pan slowly; if you go slowly and stir, you will have a nice, relatively lump-free sauce. Cook just until you see the sauce thicken, being careful not to let it boil. When the sauce has thickened to a nice consistency, stir in the Gorgonzola cheese (the range given allows just a hint of flavor with 1 oz., up to a punch for us stinky cheese lovers using 3 oz.) and cubed, cooked chicken. The hot sauce should be enough to warm the chicken and slightly melt the cheese. If you need a little help, put the pan back on a low burner for a moment.
To serve, ladle warm sauce over cooked gnocchi, rice or noodles. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired. Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator.
*I used leftover roast chicken, skinless breast meat. I like white meat for this dish because the sauce is already so rich. I think you could successfully use poached chicken, too.