January is not a very inspiring month for cooking. The choice of seasonal vegetables is slim and very starchy. You've used up all your best festive ideas over the holidays. And the stress and excitement of Christmas and the new year means your defences are down and you catch the mother of all colds. I have to say that this dish was an antidote to all of the above. The lemon gives you vitamin C and revives your taste buds with a fresh zing. The chicken and garlic give you strength to face a cold January day. And the cream, well, is comforting and indulgent, as it always is. And the best part, for me, is that it was a tiny chink in the artichoke-resistant armor of the Critic. He thinks he doesn't like artichokes, but I am slowly starting to change his mind.
One of the ways I overcome the dearth of good vegetables in the winter is to turn to the freezer section of the store. In the summer, I stick to fresh and seasonal vegetables but in the middle of the winter, I am a bit more relaxed. And when I do buy them, I like to favor the ones that are, frankly, too much of a pain to prepare under normal circumstances. For this reason, artichoke hearts and fava beans are frequently to be found in my freezer.
Another advantage to using frozen artichoke hearts, of course, is that this is very quick and easy to prepare! I served it over rice because the Critic also has a quinoa aversion. However, next time I think I'll prepare a little of each as I am a complete fan and think it would look beautiful over a mound of red quinoa grains!
Chicken with a creamy lemon and artichoke sauce (serves 2)
2 boned chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup (110 ml) cream
a splash of wine
6 frozen artichoke hearts
1 tsp fresh or frozen basil
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
Melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed frying pan with the oil. Finely chop the garlic and add it to the butter and oil. Cut the chicken in bite-sized pieces and add them to the pan. Brown them on all sides. Add the wine and lemon juice and deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up any bits of garlic or chicken that have stuck to the bottom. Slice the artichoke hearts and add them to the pan. Add the cream and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the artichoke pieces are tender. Stir in the basil and taste for salt. Serve over grains or pasta, as your fancy takes you!