One protein you can always find in my freezer is boneless chicken breasts. That's because with chicken I can make a meal as simple and elegant or homey as I please at very little expense.

Some days it can be chicken chili while other days it's chicken piccata or cacciatore or if I've been prescient enough beforehand, I soak the breasts in buttermilk and hot sauce in the morning then dredge in flour and saute.

Here's a winner that requires fresh mushrooms and frozen artichoke hearts, both of which I, fortunately, had on hand. Serve this with couscous or quinoa, but polenta or small roasted potatoes work equally well. Dinner is on the table in just 30 minutes.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Artichokes

Recipe adapted from

4 boneless chicken breast halves

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shallots, chopped fine

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups) (I use cremini, but button mushrooms are just fine.)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken stock or broth

1 1/2 cups frozen artichoke hearts (about 10), quartered, defrosted, and drained

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. (If you can, do this early in the day and refrigerate them, covered loosely. This will help the skin crisp up. But it's totally optional.) When you get home, take the breasts out of the refrigerator. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove chicken breasts to oven-proof dish, and place in oven. Roast breasts for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Then remove them from the oven and let rest for a few minutes.

While chicken is roasting, sauté chopped shallots and mushrooms with a pinch of salt in oil and pan drippings (you may need to add a little more oil) until shallots are soft and mushrooms have begun to brown slightly and give off their liquid. Stir in flour and cook over medium-low heat until nutty and brown, stirring frequently, about 3-5 minutes.

Pour in chicken stock, and raise heat, until sauce begins to simmer and starts to reduce somewhat. Reduce heat to low and stir in artichoke hearts, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and rosemary. Stir together and cook over low heat until sauce thickens and is blended together and fragrant. Taste and add salt and black pepper as desired. You can turn the heat off and cover it till the chicken has finished roasting. Just before serving, swirl in a tablespoon of butter, if desired. Serve each piece on a bed of sauce, making sure that each serving contains artichoke hearts and mushrooms. Serves 4.

Per serving: 488 calories; 26 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 48 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 130 mg cholesterol; 394 mg sodium; 49 g protein; 4 g fiber.

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