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Once upon a time, I used to spend my free time writing — short stories, novels, poems, there’s a cache of writing saved on hard drives. Most has barely seen the light of day. But for a little while, I used to post my writing to a website for writers where members would read and critique each other’s work. It was fun, and kept me motivated to write more and more.
It was on that site that I posted a version of a novel that I have been working on since middle school. Yes, really. I bet there are many writers with stories like that — the one piece of work that you revise, and revise, and revise, but never quite finish. My novel has gone through dozens of drafts with the storyline updated, expanded and fleshed out. And by the time I posted it there, I thought it was ready for publication. It wasn’t and it’s still not, so it still sits waiting for that someday when it is. If that ever comes.
But in the meantime, I want to tell you about one scene in the novel. The protagonist of the story sits down to dinner with her parents and they get on the subject of what special meal she wants for a celebratory dinner. Her response? Coq au vin, which is chicken with wine sauce. I don’t know what drove me to write that in, but it felt like such a fancy response at the time. And coq au vin can be fancy. It’s usually a dish cooked low and slow, allowing it time for the flavors to develop and come together. And the results? Pretty awesome.
But a delicious chicken with wine sauce can be created in less time. In fact, if you have about 35 minutes, you can whip up my version — Easy Pinot Noir Chicken with Mushrooms. It’s big on flavor, and packed with mushrooms and onions.
You start by sauteing chicken in a little olive oil. Then the chicken comes out of the pan, and you sweat onions and mushrooms with a little salt, pepper and butter. Add the chicken back, add chicken stock, cornstarch and wine and cook until the sauce gets a little thicker.
I like it served over pasta. But it’s also great with mashed potatoes.
The secret to this sauce is the wine that gives it bold, rich flavor. I made this using Estancia Wine Pinot Noir, a warm, small-scale wine made in California, which I found in the wine section at my local Walmart. The brand says it’s “terroir focused,” but to me it’s just a tasty wine with a nice bite.
Pour yourself a glass to have with the dish too, if you like.
If you are serving this over pasta, consider trying Barilla‘s new Barilla Pronto pasta (also available at Walmart!) that’s ready in minutes. The one pan pasta is so easy — just add the pasta and liquid to a pan and cook according to package directions. No need for pre-boiling the water or even draining. And it comes in five tasty shapes — Spaghetti, Penne, Rotini, Elbows, Linguine.
I also like to serve this with a little salad. Because you always need salad.
The great thing about this dish is that it’s easy — but it feels fancy. And if you want your dinner to feel even fancier, serve it with an easy hor d’oeuvre like a cheese plate with crackers. Choose a few cheeses — perhaps a sharp asiago, a creamy semi-soft cheese and something bold — and serve it with a selection of crackers. Pepperidge Farm‘s Cracker Trio is a good option for this.
And end the meal with something sweet — like cookies. Pepperidge Farm’s cookie collection is always a favorite around here. They remind me of childhood and holiday dinners and family.
Want to learn more about good pairings? Visit the Simple Entertaining Hub to find out about tasting and pairing events at Walmart stores near you.
Easy Pinot Noir Chicken with Mushrooms
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb thin cut chicken breasts
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion , small diced
- 8 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 cup Estancia pinot noir
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook, turning once, until lightly golden on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate.
- Add the butter to the pan and melt. Add the onions and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Stir, cover and cook until the onions begin to get translucent, about 5 minutes. Uncover and allow liquid in the pan to evaporate. Add the chicken back to the pan.
- Stir together the chicken stock and cornstarch. Pour over the chicken and add the pinot noir as well. Stir well. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove the cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, until slightly thickened.
- Serve over pasta.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.