Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chicken and Asparagus in a Lemon Cream Sauce

This is one of my all time favorite dishes and frankly I can't believe I haven't made it since we've lived in Baltimore. This is a fantastic meal for a large crowd and super, super easy to make. It is another classic from my Aunt Nina's cook book, A Matter of Taste. When new babies are born I always turn to Nina's book for inspiration. Olly's arrival warranted this dish.

Eric's parents were also returning from a long Memorial Day weekend in South Carolina so I doubled the recipe and made one for Farm Pond Lane and one for us too. We ate ours  for lunch on Memorial Day, as pictured in the first shot.

Chicken and Asparagus in Lemon Sauce

4 whole chicken breasts, cooked and cut into large pieces. note:: I like to cook the chicken fresh vs. using a rotisserie. When the chicken is resting use the juices as part of the cup of "stock" as listed below.
1-1 1/2 lbs. blanched fresh asparagus

Lemon Sauce
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
1 cup half and half
1 cup chicken stock
2-3 T. lemon juice (I used the juice of three lemons)
4 T. dry white wine or Vermouth (use the Vermouth!)
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Lemon Pepper to taste

Melt butter; whisk in flour and cook through. Lower heat. Add cream, lemon juice, and stock; cook stirring until thickened. Add wine after removing from heat.

Layer asparagus; season with salt and lemon pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Add chicken. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Pour sauce over and spring with more Parmesan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

I doubled the recipe and honestly, I never measure when making a roux. I just eyeball it and taste it as I'm cooking. Follow the recipe exactly if this is your first time. Most important part is to cook the flour. You don't want your sauce to taste like raw flour. (The chicken is "resting" in the background. I sear the chicken pieces and then bake for 7-10 minutes on each side to cook through in an oven at 350. This method keeps it really juicy.)

I added extra lemon zest with the cheese for ours. We are freaks about lemon. I acutally forgot the lemon pepper by accident. Proving again that I never use recipes.

I tried to make this gluten free with Almond Meal. It didn't thicken up so I added a little flour as well. 

When the sauce coats a spoon it is ready for the Vermouth. I swear the Vermouth makes this meal. It reminds me so much of our family meals. It think it must have been a fancy dancy deal in the 80s when Mom was so into cooking!

I like to peel the asparagus spears. And don't over cook it. Blanch it just enough to turn it bright green and then shock it in an ice bath. Layer and add the chicken. You don't have to add so much cheese if you don't want the extra salt.

Sprinkle cheese.

Make extra sauce. The more sauce the better! Baby Boy Blue Pyrex went home to Olly.

Heat and use your best silver, set your table, cut peonies and pour iced tea. It's the most simple dish but tastes like a million bucks!

Emily posted her dinner on Facebook last weekend after we dropped it off. She cooked it perfectly! It should have a golden crust. I only cooked ours for 15 minutes, because we were starved. Everything is cooked so it just needs to be heated until it is warm and bubbly.

Olly update; his grandparents just left, leaving big lipstick kisses. What a lamb.

Nina, I love you to pieces for this and all of your fail proof recipes. This meal celebrates spring so perfectly. Thank you for it and all the others. Olly, we are sending you big kisses from Stone Hill. Love, Aunt Nellie and Uncle E

Book Club Babies

We had a very smart young fella crash book club two Tuesday's ago at our usual 6:30 pm time slot at a new restaurant. The precious creature wasn't even six days old in this photo. I love Em's face just "ooooh'ing" at his eyes opening the first time that evening. Look at him!!!

We had a small group gather at Our House on Hull Street for "Matthew's Style" pizza. We read Nina's pick, May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes. I always choke when I write a book "review"...but I'll try again. This was a very easy read of a book by a woman author, writing in the context of a sad sap of a guy. The main character finds himself drawn into a short lived affair with his brother's wife. The drama that ensues afterwards just sucks you in somehow. I could not put this tome of a novel down. It's 481 pages felt very easy to read. I loved the historic references to Nixon and what's-his-name's (the main character's) obsession with this president. The brother, George, stuck with me more for some reason. A guy who didn't think the rules applied to him. Much like Nixon. But it is not a historical novel. It's a story about family, heartbreak, connection with relatives and ultimately about love and how to find it. Okay, that wasn't so hard. Read the Good Reads write-ups which are much better.

The mom's in the group were helpful in advice giving for the six day old parents.

We actually did talk about the book, and Nina chose it because she had a chance to meet the author. We didn't judge her for the weirdness of the book, but loved her more for it! I've said it before but I love, love, love my book club friends. We always talk about politics, religion, race and seem to have more fantastic thoughts at each meeting. It has been WAY too long since I've actually gone to "Our Book Club Has No Name" book club, and I was so glad I did.

It was hard to keep our eyes off of Olly. Truly, he is the most gorgeous child! All babies are beautiful, but this little guy seems wise and smart and gorgeous as a week old person!

The food was fantastic as well. We pick a restaurant that "pairs" with the book and this homey place made perfect since. The main character was desperate to create his own home and family despite the murder and mayhem surrounding him.

It was also "Toofer Tuesday" so we got two drinks for the price of one! My meal was $16.00! I brought E. back a week later and we walked away with an $84 meal, because I bought Michelle's Granola as an impulse purchase at the register and ordered two of the most fantastic antipasto salads. They have a plethora of fancy beers that also put us over  in bucks and wonderful servers. Totally worth it!

Susan, Nina, Toby and me. Em and Justin left early to take care of the babe.

The decor at Our House is straight 1970's mom, aka KT Punks Mommy. The Mary Englebright posters in the bathroom and silly sayings screamed my mother. In a good way. It was welcoming, kitschy and totally homey. 

There were puzzles and games for kids but Olly was the only child I noticed. It was a great spot for book club because it was so quiet. It closes early during the week, 8pm and at 10pm on Saturdays.

You order on a "form" with the menu and then the salad dressing and drinks are self serve. The beer cooler doesn't have prices so beware of the upper right corner which hosts the premier beers in the $9.00 each range. When you are ready to pay you simply bring your bottle tops to the counter to tally up. This is where you can buy Michelle's Granola and lots of other little impulse purchases. 


It was a darling location and I look forward to going back soon. Hopefully with Olly!

Thank you Nina for picking such an interesting, sad, funny and ultimately loving book. It's the only book in book club that I have continued to read after our "meeting". I still have 100 pages but I know I will finish it! Susan and Toby, I feel so lucky to have seen you ladies twice in one month! Em and Justin thanks so much for bringing your darling boy to dinner. He truly is magically delicious in his beauty. Love, Aunt Nellie