For a fast spring supper, why not make a dinner filled with light flavor by using one pan—a large skillet, sautéing some fresh mushrooms or other vegetables, adding the chicken meat and then creating a light pan sauce to mesh all the flavors together?
Right now, many of you are saying this sounds too complicated and “sauces aren’t my thing to make.” There is a secret ingredient hiding in almost everyone’s refrigerator that can simplify the sauce making and avoid "cheats" like gloppy canned soups.
Try melting cream cheese.
When I was a youngster, I discovered by accident that cream cheese can make the basis for a lovely sauce without too much work or too many other ingredients.
Years ago, I was with friends who managed an inn in a very remote spot when they got a call on Sunday night that 10 guests were coming to have dinner in an hour!
We were totally unprepared and it was far too late to run to a grocery store. There was nothing but a leftover roast chicken, mushrooms and cream cheese in the refrigerator.
In the pantry, breads, jams and jellies abounded, along with spices, wine and several cans of artichoke hearts. A little ingenuity and one of the best impromptu meals ever served was born.
We grilled some of the bread slices and topped them with a bit of cream cheese and jams laced with hot paprika—for Southern style "bruschetta." Then we sautéed the mushrooms in a huge skillet until they were golden brown, adding chicken meat in chunks and a few cans of artichoke hearts.
Into that skillet went cubes of cream cheese and white wine with salt and pepper. The cream cheese melted into the wine as we stirred and the artichoke hearts, chicken and mushrooms became a lovely entrée. Ice cream with cookies and exotic preserves made for dessert. No one even knew we hadn’t been prepared for company!
If you’d like to try the recipe, try the one below. It’s saved me several times since. If you don’t like mushrooms or artichokes, you can swap out the vegetables for things like sautéed zucchini, seeded tomatoes and broccoli. If you want more vibrant flavors, add some sun-dried tomatoes or pitted Kalamata olives.
Simple Sunday Supper Chicken with Artichokes
(Serves 4-6, but can be doubled easily)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 Cups roast chicken meat, cut into large chunks
1 large can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped into quarters
1 cup dry white wine
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until they have released their juices and turned golden brown. Add the artichoke hearts, chicken and wine. Stir to bring up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, then add the cream cheese, stirring gently until all the cream cheese has melted and the sauce is velvety. If you want a lighter sauce, add more wine. For a thicker sauce, add more cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper.