Thursday, 2 September 2010

Cooking a la Florentine

Last Tuesday afternoon, a friend of mine (Kristine Bernardino) recommended Chicken Florentine when I asked her for any suggestion on what to do with my chicken.  I had to postpone cooking it coz I’ve done pininyahang manok (chicken in pineapple sauce) instead.

Last night, I’ve cooked Florentine and I used fish (sutji) instead of chicken ( I need to practice cooking with fish since my husband Frederick is superbly surfeited with chicken - if you eat chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, everyday? who won't be.  And he complains a lot about it) 

Florentine... I got curious with the name. Why Florentine? Why not just chicken or fish with spinach in white sauce or something? Maybe any dish with spinach is called Florentine?  You can check the web for any chicken or fish Florentine or even the Florentine sauce per se and every single one has spinach in it.

Then I read a myth explaining the origins of the Florentine dish.  And yes it is a dish with spinach paired with chicken or fish (maybe even red meat, though come to think of it, white meat provides the same protein amount at a lower dose of calorie) and Italian sauce, and was served in honor of Florence, Italy.  So there goes the origin, eeehhrrm, myth.  So it’s not cooking a la Florentine without the spinach (that would be called something else!)

There are a lot of variations for the Florentine, some cooked with wine, others with pure cheese and lots of it, some in heavy cream or milk.  Some bakes it, and some just serves it as is. Here’s my own variation, and I used sutji fish fillet.  Next time, I’d be using chicken fillet (take note, the fish or the chicken should be filleted)

Ingredients (adjusted based on my sister Kristine’s comments)

A. Fish  fillets – 2 fillets

     Vegetable oil for frying

B.  Florentine Sauce

Spinach             – 2 bunches or more (just use the leaves)

Soya oil / olive oil – 1 tbsp

Garlic, chopped – 1 clove

Onion, diced – 1 small piece

Butter (salted)    -  50 g

Garlic, chopped  - 4 cloves

All purpose flour – 50 g

Evaporated milk – 160 ml (1 cup)

Water    - 240 ml (1 1/2 cups)

Sharon’s Herb Blend – to taste

MSG, pepper and salt to taste

Grated cheese

The fish can be fried as is, with no salt, or it can also be coated (just dredge it in flour, or as what my sister Kristine always does, dredge it in potato starch)

For the cheese, cheddar can do (if you are on a budget), but parmesan or mozzarella will be highly recommended.  I will try using cream cheese next time and some dry white wine instead of water (1 cup of dry white wine  and 1 cup of water)  and all purpose heavy cream instead of the evaporated milk to make it even creamier (my sister Kristine is a sucker for creaminess and garlicky taste).

Cooking Procedure:

A. Fry the fish and set aside.

B. Florentine Sauce:

1) Cook the spinach first.   Saute it in the 1 tbsp soya oil with the garlic and onion (sauté the garlic and onion first then the spinach). Add a pinch of salt, toss it - do not overcook the spinach!  Set aside.

2) Melt the butter and sauté the garlic until it’s almost translucent (do not roast the garlic!)

3) Add the flour and make a roux.  Add the milk and water and the seasoning and stir it well until the mixture is homogenous and thick enough but spreadable.

We can do this recipe in 2 ways:

1) Serve it as is:  just spread the spinach on a platter and place the fish on top then spread the sauce and top with grated cheese.  You can also mix the sauce with the spinach and reserve some to be spread on the fish then top with greated cheese.

2) Bake it or microwave it :

- assemble the ingredients on a baking pan.  Spinach should be at the bottom part, then spread the white sauce, then layer the fish and spread the remaining sauce. 

- Top with the grated cheese.

- bake it at 200 degrees Celsius for 10-15 minutes until the toppings turned brown. You can also microwave it for 3-4 minutes

If you intend to bring it to work for lunch the following day (like we did), you can assemble this dish inside a microwavable lunch box instead. Saves time (not to mention the dishwashing liquid and water you save washing the baking pan and your lunch box)



Best served with toasted bread and red wine hhhhmmmmm (thinking, thinking, thinking.  Coke zero na lang, mahal ang wine eh, that’ll save me 40 bucks )

- sharosem (2September2010)

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