After the holidays (or a vacation), do you ever eat so much heavy food (or junk) that you come home and just crave vegetables? I do. But come on, it’s so cold out there that I’m walking the dog in two pairs of pants, a scarf, and a knit hat on top of the hood of my hoodie, with my gloved hands shoved inside the fleeced-lined pockets of my down coat. I know that I can’t keep counting mashed potatoes and corn pudding as my only vegetables, but a cold romaine salad with mealy winter tomatoes and waxy cucumber slices isn’t going to cut it either.
No, when I crave vegetables in the winter, I want winter vegetables. I want something warm and hearty, not something that I feel like I should eat just because you’re supposed to eat vegetables. I can’t get excited about the same light and refreshing things that I would choose during the summer. And I want to look forward to my food, even if I am making a conscientious effort to include more veggies in it.
So, the pantry part of this dish came from some leftover butternut squash chunks and a bag of carrots, some frozen chicken thighs, an opened container of mascarpone that was mostly full, and some sage and parsley that had I picked before the frost finally killed it off. I rounded out the vegetables with mushrooms (because cooked mushrooms are delicious), parsnips (totally underrated and so good), and broccoli (mostly because I’m a big fan of broccoli but partly because I was motivated by a deeply-rooted and overwhelming conviction that Dinner Must Include Something Green (thanks, Mom)).
I used pre-packaged gnocchi since I’ve tried and failed several times before to make home-made gnocchi; the kind that comes in a vacuum-sealed package is way easier and quicker, and maybe I’m just not too picky about my gnocchi because I’m a sucker for anything that’s like a dumpling / pierogi / potsticker. All of the vegetables are braised with the chicken thighs—it’s a bit of a pain with the timing because they cook at different rates, and you don’t want your broccoli to be mush while your carrots are raw, but hey!, at least it’s all cooked in one skillet—and tossed with the gnocchi in a lightly creamy pan sauce. It’s a one-dish meal that doesn’t need any sides, except maybe a glass of wine.
Note: You will need a 12″ skillet with a lid. This dish is best eaten the day it’s made; if you have leftovers, add an extra splash of chicken broth before you reheat them. Also, my package of gnocchi claimed it was 3 servings, but with everything else that’s added in here, it easily serves 4.
Creamy Gnocchi with Braised Chicken and Winter Vegetables
- 8 oz. cremini / baby bella mushrooms
- 2 medium parsnips
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 generous cup of 1/2″- 3/4″ cubes of butternut squash (about 6 oz.)
- 1 medium-large broccoli crown (about 6 oz.)
- 1/2 Tbsp. butter
- 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 smallish boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3/4 lb.), trimmed of excess fat
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 Tbsp. minced fresh sage
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 1 1/2 c. chicken broth, divided
- one 17.5-oz. package of gnocchi (I used De Cecco brand)
- 1/4 c. half-and-half
- 1/4 c. mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- chopped fresh parsley for serving
- Prep all of the vegetables. You are going to add them to the pan at different times, so—except for the carrots and parsnips—keep them in separate bowls. Wash and stem the mushrooms, and pat them dry; quarter them if they are small and cut them into 6 or 8 pieces if they are large. Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut them on the diagonal into 1/3″ coins. Separate the broccoli crown into bite-site florets.
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle it on both sides with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the chicken and cook until browned on both sides, flipping once, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan, place on a plate, and tent with foil.
- Add chopped mushrooms to the pan and cook until they release their juices and the juices have mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes total.
- Add the garlic and sage and stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until fragrant, then pour in the wine and scrape up any brown bits. Boil for 1 minute.
- Return the chicken thighs and any accumulated juices to the pan, and also add the carrots, parsnips, and 1/4 cup of the chicken broth. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and braise for 5 minutes. After the carrots and parsnips have cooked for 5 minutes, add the butternut squash to the pan, stir, put the lid back on, and cook for 15 more minutes. Then add the broccoli, stir, put the lid back on, and cook for 5 additional minutes.
- While the vegetables are braising, cook the gnocchi according to the package directions, drain, and set aside. Meanwhile, in a small measuring cup, combine the half-and-half with 3/4 cup of the chicken broth. In a different cup, whisk the flour into the remaining 1/2 cup of broth.
- After the broccoli has cooked for 5 minutes, remove the chicken, place it in your serving bowl, and shred it with 2 forks. Pour the half-and-half / broth mixture into the pan and also add the mascarpone cheese. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir until smooth. When the liquid starts simmering, add the flour/broth mixture and stir until thickened. Add the whole thing to the serving bowl, dump in the gnocchi, and toss gently to coat everything evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately. Top each serving with a small handful of parsley.