It's A Keeper: Deluxe, Divine Chicken Divan

Are you in a chicken rut? I think back on the days when I considered making marinated chicken and white rice a major feat of cooking. Then I make a dish like Rachael Ray's Deluxe, Divine Chicken Divan from Express Lane Meals and realize how far I've come. I mean, a tarragon cream sauce with mushrooms? Hello! This is what Rachael calls a "I can't believe I made this" meal.

For this dish, there was minimal chopping, which is always a plus for me. With my husband's help, I think it came in at about 35 minutes. He was in charge of the chicken while I manned the sous chef duties, the asparagus and the rice. To make it a little healthier, I made brown rice, but it still tasted great. Here is the recipe with my comments in brackets:

1/3 cup sliced almonds, a couple of handfuls
1 quart chicken stock
1 lemon, zested
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups white rice
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds chicken breast cutlets, 8 cutlets
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, 1/3 palm full
2 tablespoons plus about 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of pan
1 1/3 pounds, a large bunch, asparagus spears, trimmed of tough ends
6 or 7 large button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup white wine (eyeball it) [This ingredient is missing from the Food Network version of the recipe, for some reason.]
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 rounded tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons, a couple sprigs, fresh tarragon, leaves chopped
2 scallions, chopped

Toast almonds in a small skillet until golden. Set aside. [You'll know to keep a close eye on them when you can smell them]

Bring 2 3/4 cups chicken stock [use more if you make brown rice, just add the amount called for on the package], the zest of 1 lemon, thyme sprigs and a tablespoon of butter to a boil in a medium pot with a tight fitting lid. Add rice to water, stir. Return the water to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot. Cook 18 minutes or until tender, remove from heat. Remove the thyme sprigs, the leaves will have fallen off in the rice. [It's like magic.]

While the rice cooks, season chicken with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Dredge chicken in about half cup of flour then discard the rest. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, and 1 tablespoon butter to the large skillet. To the hot butter and oil, add the cutlets and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side. [Because they are thin little guys, they cook fast.] Remove the meat to a large platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

Bring an inch or 2 of water to a simmer in a shallow pan and season with salt. Add asparagus and cook 4 minutes until just tender but green. Remove and add to chicken platter to keep warm.

Return chicken skillet to the heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. Melt butter, add the mushrooms and saute for a couple of minutes. Whisk in 2 rounded tablespoons flour. Cook the flour 1 minute then whisk in 1/3 cup white wine, a couple of glugs. Cook off wine, 30 seconds, then whisk in 1 1/4 cups of chicken stock (remainder of the quart) [I had to open a new box to get the full amount, since I used extra for my rice, but no big deal since I cook with the stuff all the time] then the half-and-half. When sauce bubbles, stir in mustard and tarragon and let sauce simmer and thicken 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir scallions into rice and fluff with fork. Make a bed of rice on each dinner plate. Top with a serving of steamed asparagus then 2 cutlets of chicken. Cover the chicken with the tarragon sauce, allowing the gravy to spill over edges into asparagus and rice. Sprinkle the plates with toasted nuts. Wow! Can you believe you made this?

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