Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Way to a Man's Heart.....

Happy Valentine's Day! 

The indignities I suffer while preparing a Valentine's Day dinner to impress my husband.  I'm typing with one hand because the other is wrapped in a dish towel full of ice.  What chuckle head grabs the rim of a blazing hot saute pan to center it on the burner? I haven't burnt myself in a couple of years so I guess I was over due.

Blistered fingers notwithstanding we did indeed enjoy a beautiful, romantic dinner for two.  On the menu tonight was elegant Gruyere Chicken en Croute with a sinfully delicious White Wine and Dijon Cream Sauce.  A fresh side dish of crisp tender Balsamic Roasted Asparagus and a sweet and savory salad of Arugula, Apple and Walnuts rounded out the meal.  Using skim milk in the sauce helps to keep calories and fat down and light, crispy phyllo dough instead of puff pastry saves a TON of calories. 

We needed to conserve wherever possible because dessert was my ridiculously rich Fleur de Sel Caramel Triple Chocolate Brownies.  Having everyone sign a release of liability before serving these is probably a good idea!  I rarely make things that are this fattening but hey, its a special occasion.  The key to enjoying these over-the-top treats is PORTION CONTROL!  The recipe makes 16 small brownies.  Obvioulsy  I've presented them much larger here for the sake of the picture.  You could use store bought fat free caramel in place of the homemade but I promise you it makes a difference.  That stuff isn't real caramel anyway.  Its a chemistry experiment with artificial flavor and color.  Make the caramel a day ahead to save time and the brownies will come together in a snap!

I hope you'll give these recipes a try and that you will enjoy them as much as we did!

Gruyere Chicken en Croute with White Wine Dijon Cream Sauce

Using leftover roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken to fill these delicate phyllo packets saves time and money.  A kitchen spritzer bottle filled with olive oil makes a good lower calorie substitute for brushing the tops with melted butter.  Buy reduced fat Gruyere if you can find it.  If not, substitute reduced fat swiss.

1 (6 ounce) package fresh organic baby spinach
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2  teaspoons unsalted organic butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coursely ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely grated
8 ounces organic sliced cremini mushrooms
1 (12 ounce) organic roasted red bell pepper strips drained and patted dry
1 1/2 cups finely grated reduced fat Gruyere, Emmenthaler or Swiss Cheese, divided
2 1/2 cups diced roasted chicken breast
24 sheets thawed phyllo dough
Olive oil spritzer (use your own instead of the canned stuff with all the chemical propellants in it)
White Wine Dijon Cream Sauce
minced parsley for garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Give spinach leaves a rough chop.  Thinly slice shallots.  Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in 10" saute pan.  Add shallot, salt and pepper and pressed garlic.  Cook and stir 2 minutes or until shallot is tender.  Add chopped spinach to skillet and cook 2 additonal minutes until spinach is wilted.  Transfer mixture to strainer to remove any collected juices.  Press with paper towel to dry saute vegetables.  Set aside.
2.  Place saute pan back on heat and add remaining teaspoon of butter.  Saute mushrooms over medium high heat until tender and browned.  Remove from pan and place in prep bowl; set aside. 
3.  Drain roasted red pepper strips and pat dry between paper towels.  Roughly dice the peppers and place in a mixing bowl.  Add 1 cup of the grated cheese and the diced chicken breast and mix well.  Set aside.
4.  Unfold one sheet of phyllo on work surface and spritz with olive oil. Sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons of the remaining finely grated cheese.  Repeat two more times to create a stack of three phyllo sheets.  End with cheese.  Place about 1 tablespoon of the sauted spinach mixture on phyllo, two inches from the short end.  Place 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture over spinach and top with one eighth of the mushrooms.  Fold long sides of phyllo in towards center and gently roll up.  Spray rolls on all sides with olive oil spritz and place on baking sheet seam side down.  Repeat with remaining phyllo and fillings to make eight rolls.
5.  Bake 15 minutes until rolls begin to brown.  Top with any remaining finely grated cheese.  Return to oven and bake an additional 10-12 minutes.  To serve, cut in half diagonally and serve with White Wine Dijon Cream sauce. Garnish with parsley. 

White Wine Dijon Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon unsalted organic butter
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour (you can sub spelt flour)
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Melt butter in a 1 quart sauce pan and add pressed garlic.  Cook over medium heat for 1 minutes.  Do not brown garlic.  Whisk in flour to form a smooth paste.  Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture smells toasty but do not brown.  Add wine and milk all at once; whisk constantly until mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly.  Whisk in dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make 8 chicken rolls and about 1 cup of sauce. 

Serving size: 1 roll with 2 tablespoons sauce
350 calories, 12g fat, 28g carbs, 23 g protein, 2g fiber, 600mg sodium

Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

1 lb tender young organic asparagus spears
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic

1.  Preheat oven to 450F.  Discard tougher ends of spears.  Place prepared vegetables in shallow baking dish.  Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat. 
2.  Roast 5-8 minutes until crisp tender, turning as needed.

Arugula, Walnut and Apple Salad with Shaved Peccorino and Balsamic Vinaigrette

10 ounces organic baby arugula (roquette)
1 organic gala apple, peel on and thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted walnut halves
shaved Peccorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Arrange arugula, apple slices and walnuts in decorative bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk dijon mustard into vinegar until blended.  Gradually whisk in olive oil until dressing is blended.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dress salad just before serving.

Makes 2 servings

My wine of preference for this meal is a Pignot Grigio.  The crisp bright notes are the perfect compliment for all three dishes.

Chicken en Croute with White Wine Dijon Cream Sauce and Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

Arugula, Apple and Walnut Salad with Shaved Peccorino

Now for dessert!

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Making this beautiful homemade caramel will take your brownies from delicious to outrageous!  It is definately worth the effort.  Make ahead and refrigerate.  Leftovers can be heated and poured over ice cream.  Have all your ingredients ready to go because this comes together lightening quick. 

1 cup unbleached cane sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, melted
1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half if you must)

Pour sugar in a high sided 2 quart sauce pan and place over medium heat.  You can swirl the sugar around as it melts but DO NOT STIR!  That will cause it clump up.  When sugar is completely melted and golden, take the sauce pan off the heat and whisk in melted butter.  The sugar WILL foam up so be careful.  Once butter is incorporated, add cream all at once.  Mixture will probably still foam up.  Just keep whisking until combined.  Pour into heat proof glass jar and set aside to cool.  When cooled; cover and refrigerate.  Makes about a cup and half of caramel sauce.  Caramel will become thick when chilled.

Fleur de Sel Caramel Triple Chocolate Brownies

I cannot be held responsible for any sugar or chocolate induced coma resulting from consumption of these brownies!

1 stick unsalted organic butter
12 ounce bag dark chocolate chips, divided
2 large organic eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup packed organic brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 heaping tablespoon all purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup homemade caramel, warmed
1/4 teaspoon fleur de Sel flakes
* you may substitute regular coarse sea salt if you can't find fleur de sel

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease 9' square baking dish and line with parchement paper.  Grease parchment as well.  If using a dark pan, reduce baking temp to 325.  Set aside.
2.  Place butter and 10 ounces of the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler.  Make sure bottom does not touch the water.  Stir until mixture is smooth and chocolate is thoroughly melted.  Remove from heat.  Let mixture cool slightly.
3.  In a 2 quart mixing bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until combined.  Stir in vanilla.  Gradually add chocolate mixture until well blended.  Set aside.
4.  Sift together 1 cup of the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Add to chocolate mixture and stir until just blended.  Stir in the kosher salt.
5.  Place remaining 2 ouncs chocolate chips and walnuts in a small bowl and toss with remaining tablespoon of flour.  Fold into brownie batter.  Pour batter into prepared pan.
6.  Microwave caramel for 30 seconds to warm.  Drizzle evenly over top of brownie batter and swirl with a butter knife.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until pick inserted 2" from sides of pan comes out clean.  Do not overbake.  Allow brownines to cool completely before cutting.  You may drizzle with additonal caramel after baking.  Sprinkle fleur de sel on top of brownies.  Cut into 16 pieces.

Don't ask about calories, fat etc.  You don't want to know!

Serve with a lovely dry Brut.

Fleur de Sel Triple Chcolate Brownies

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine's Day!

(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet


  1. This looks amazing. I'm going to have to make it for Drew and I; he will totally love it. The pictures came out great as well!

  2. thanks! I thought the pics really looked great too. I have to warn you though...those brownies are VERY dangerous!


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Fort Myers, Florida, United States