We are in the heart of champagne season. From New Year’s Eve through Valentine’s Day when the evenings are long and the conditions are perfect for romantic dinners for two there always seems to be an occasion close at hand for sharing a glass of sparkling wine.
Over twenty years ago I cut the menu for a Champagne Dinner for Two from the pages of Southern Living. It featured an elegant but simple meal of chicken breasts in a velvety mushroom sauce, a flavorful pilaf of wild rice, bright steamed vegetables and pretty green salad with luscious amaretto-spiked chocolate mousse for dessert. Of course the dinner was complemented by a bottle of champagne, sipped with the meal and laced through the sauce.
I prepared the menu exactly as suggested for Valentine’s Day. As promised, preparation was not complicated, leaving time to set a pretty table and put some flowers in a vase. The meal came together seamlessly and the flavors blended in a perfect harmony. The dinner was a success in every way.
Since then I have served Chicken Breasts with Champagne Sauce on many occasions. It has long been one of my favorite "For Company" dishes. It is simple enough to serve on late notice and elegant enough to impress.
I have modified the recipe somewhat over the years to reliably balance the consistency of the sauce and lower the fat content. As with many recipes, nonfat Greek yogurt makes an excellent substitute for the commercial sour cream called for in the original recipe.
Chicken Breasts with Champagne Sauce
adapted from a recipe in an old issue of Southern Living
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup champagne
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Yield: 2 servings.
In a medium skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add chicken breast halves and brown on both sides.
Reserving the drippings in the skillet,remove chicken breast pieces to a 1-quart baking dish. Add mushroom slices to the skillet and sauté until mushrooms are browned. Remove the mushrooms to a small dish and set aside.
Stir champagne into drippings in the skillet. Simmer until heated through and reduced slightly, stirring occasionally to release browned bits from the skillet. Pour warmed champagne evenly over chicken pieces.
Cover chicken and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Remove chicken pieces to a platter, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add yogurt, salt and pepper to the reserved liquid, whisking until smooth. Pour sauce over chicken and top with browned mushrooms.
Note: If you are reluctant to open a bottle of champagne for this recipe, white wine or even chicken broth can be used instead with good result.