I will never forget the first time I had spinach in cream sauce: the tang of white wine tempered the silken nature of the heavy cream, creating a luxurious blanket for the simmering creminis. It’s hard to argue with the allure of heavy cream, even when we are trying to be eco- or animal-conscious.
I don’t buy it often, and my fridge almost always has milk alternatives in it such as oat or almond–but every now and then, ya just want something so creamy it’s basically liquid butter.
This flavorful sauce beautifully coats tender poached chicken breasts and cooks fresh spinach in a matter of minutes. Grounded in earthy greens and brightened by white wine and a splash of lemon juice, this truly is a decadent, simple dish that makes enjoying dinner a no-brainer. Plus, it comes together in under an hour and utilizes only one skillet, which makes clean up a breeze.
While I would be hard pressed to label this a “healthy” dish thanks to the cream, there are certain benefits to eating lean protein like chicken breasts (low cholesterol, high protein) and spinach.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Aside from containing vital nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium, spinach is also high in vitamin A and folate.
Vitamin A has been linked to eyesight, skin, and hair health, as well as reduced risk of certain cancers like cervical, lung, and bladder cancers.
Vitamin A also helps to fight acne and is an essential micronutrient necessary in collagen production, responsible for keeping us looking young and healthy, as well as boosting bone health and nutrient absorption.
Folate plays a key role in red blood cell formation and general cell health and function.
Isn’t it fun to know that, on a cellular level, our foods are working to keep the machinations of our amazing bodies in order?
What’s even more fun is knowing that folate is a nutrient that requires fat in order to be absorbed by the body, thus making this rich cream sauce the perfect vehicle for your leafy greens. How’s that for a justification? 😉
Simple Chicken and Spinach in Cream Sauce Recipe
Gather your ingredients in advance and season your chicken. This ensures that everything comes together at once when it’s ready to eat.
Simple ingredients means minimal effort, but it also often means crystal-clear flavor that is easier to balance.
What do I mean by “balance?”
Fat vs. acid is a great place to start. In this dish, the cream is obviously the major contributor to the “fat” column, while white wine plays heavily into the “acid.” The reason these two ingredients come together in this straightforward sauce is the fact that they play off each other nicely, making for a surprisingly complex, savory relationship. Add some garlic for pungency and shallot for character and you’ve got an excellent backdrop for whatever you like, whether that be chicken, fish, mushrooms, or vegetables.
Part of what keeps the chicken in this recipe so moist is the fact that it poaches after it sears. This has the double benefit of cooking off some of the alcohol in the white wine and further thickening the sauce.
Add some parsley for color and a squeeze of lemon for a burst of freshness. What this dish lacks in color it makes up for in flavor. Serve with rice or over a bed of fresh spinach, and enjoy!
Chicken and Spinach in Cream Sauce
- cast iron pan or heavy bottomed skillet
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 chicken breasts
- salt, for seasoning
- freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 Tbs butter
- 2 small shallots or one large
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
- 3 cups fresh spinach, packed
- fresh parsley, to taste
- fresh lemon wedges, to taste
- Season chicken breasts to taste with salt and pepper. Coat (dredge) in flour and set aside.
- Grate shallot(s) and press garlic and set aside.
- Heat oil over medium-high in a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet. Sear chicken until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes each turn. The chicken should read 165°F on an instant read thermometer. If using high-quality, organic chicken, feel free to heat chicken to the "chef's temperature" of 155°F, if you are comfortable. Keep in mind the chicken will continue to poach in the white wine in the following steps.
- Reduce heat to medium and add butter, garlic, and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and simmer about 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. Flip the chicken breasts after 5 minutes, then remove using tongs. Place on a cutting board and cover with tin foil, allowing the meat to rest for several minutes while you finish the sauce.
- Once the wine mixture has reduced significantly, add the cream and cook until the sauce can coat the back of a spoon, between 5 and 10 minutes. Once the sauce is complete, turn off the heat and add fresh spinach, stirring until incorporated and fully cooked, about 1 minute.
- Cut chicken against the grain into 1/2" strips. Plate with spinach and cream sauce, ideally over a bed of rice. Serve hot with fresh parsley and lemon wedges.