OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Vermouth fills in for white wine in creamy chicken gnocchi with asparagus

One-Pan Creamy Chicken Gnocchi With Asparagus (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
One-Pan Creamy Chicken Gnocchi With Asparagus (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

A few weeks ago my local market had fresh asparagus on sale super cheap — a rarity these days — and although the spears were much slimmer than ideal, I couldn't resist buying a couple of bunches.

I used one of them to make this dreamy, creamy one-pan gnocchi with chicken and asparagus.

To make it I needed ¼ cup of white wine, but I didn't feel like opening (and then drinking) a new bottle. Scanning over the contents of my fridge I spied a bottle of dry vermouth and I had one of those light bulb moments.

I always keep vermouth on hand for cocktails. Why haven't I been cooking with vermouth all these years instead of opening a new bottle that may or may not get consumed before it starts to taste off?

Vermouth is wine. Fortified wine, but wine nonetheless, with the same acidity and aromatic qualities as regular wine. That fortification means it has a longer shelf life so one has months to finish a bottle, not days, before the quality starts to diminish.

So that's what I opted to use in this recipe. It turned out great. If you prefer to cook without alcohol, chicken broth plus a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice will provide the same touch of acidity.

Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you off. This dish comes together quickly and is quite simple.

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Creamy Chicken Gnocchi With Asparagus

  • ¾ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
  • Leaves from several sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup white/dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 ¼ cups chicken broth
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 ½-inch lengths
  • 1 (16-ounce) package potato gnocchi
  • ½ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • Red-pepper flakes, to taste
  • Dried basil, to taste
  • Dried oregano, to taste
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Season generously with salt and ground black pepper.

Melt about 2 tablespoons butter in a large, deep skillet. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is browned on all sides. Transfer chicken to a plate.

If the skillet seems dry, add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Let it melt slightly, and then stir in the shallot, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot softens, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring to ensure the flour is completely coated in the fat, for 1 minute. Stirring constantly, slowly pour in the vermouth, scraping up all of the browned bits in the pan. Add the chicken broth and continue stirring, working out any lumps. Add the asparagus and gnocchi. Pour in the cream and then return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet and season to taste with red pepper, basil and oregano. Stir well, cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until gnocchi is heated through and the asparagus is crisp-tender. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

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