Friday, February 17, 2006

More calorific goodness

Wed 16 Feb 2006

More home cooking, in the shape of a chicken, leek and spinach gratin. Obviously we’re not aiming for a low fat/low cal/low cholesterol week here …

This is based on the recipe appearing in the most recent Sainsbury’s Magazine. I am consistently surprised by the number of many relatively simple and interesting ideas I find in supermarket magazines – this probably sounds a bit condescending, but my food magazine of choice, Australian Gourmet Traveller, provides loads of entertaining ideas but is definitely aimed at those who have a bit of time to do the shopping and necessary prep. The supermarket magazines tend to be much more store cupboard based (I guess that’s where they make their profits!).

Since this is undoubtedly calorie laden it’s definitely not a mid week meal … in my case it’s going to be eaten as a late lunch on Sunday, after a nice long walk.

Poach some chicken in milk seasoned with pepper and nutmeg. The original recipe said chicken breasts but I used chicken thighs (skinned & boned). I did this for several reasons. I think chicken thighs are a slightly more interesting meat and can hold their own a bit better in dishes where they’re competing with other flavours and textures. Also, the supermarket was offering me organic thighs for about half the price of the free range this and that (but not organic) breasts. I am not entirely convinced about eating any chicken (not since reading Not On The Label by Felicity Lawrence) so I’m a teensy bit paranoid about buying it. Bring the milk to the boil – but don’t start messing around with your camera trying to take arty photos of the kitchen because milk sits on the stove, looking innocent, for ages and then, in an instant, turns into some rabid beast frothing at the mouth – then turn down the heat and add the chicken and simmer for a bit.

Take a couple of leeks, clean & trim them and then slice them (on the diagonal) into reasonably thick chunks – maybe a cm or so thick. Steam these for a few minutes – until they are soft.

Remove the chicken from the milk and start on the white sauce. In a pan melt about 50g of unsalted butter. Once the butter is melted remove the pan from the heat and stir in about 50g of plain flour. Once well combined start adding the milk from the poaching – add it a ladleful at a time and mix it in well. Once all the milk is all added and combined put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil. Boil briefly (for a minute), making sure you stir all the time. Turn off the heat and add in about 100g of grated cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is all melted (you might need a little bit of heat for this). Stir in a good couple of tablespoons of Dijon mustard. You should also be tasting this to make sure you have actually cooked out the flour. I started tasting before I added the cheese. Add in the leeks and a good handle of chopped chives.

In a frying pan heat some oil (I used sunflower) and wilt some spinach (I used about 100g – partly because I get so bored of dealing with spinach so quickly!).

Add a layer of the cheese & leek sauce mix to a baking dish (27x? in my case) and then add the spinach, then layer the chicken thighs and finish with a layer of cheese & leek sauce. Sprinkle generously with more grated cheddar and chives. Bake at about 180C for about half an hour – til bubbling and brown.

I’ll report back when we actually eat this but it looks good and the cheese sauce was damn tasty!

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