Gather round for a Tasty Tuesday sure to tempt your senses! Meg Benjamin serves up a brewery based romance, Love on Tap, along with a delicious recipe for Chicken Divan. Sure looks easy to make and you can read while it bakes. Okay, Meg, the stage—or blog—is yours!
I love writing about food because I love to cook. Most of my books have a scene in which the hero or heroine does some cooking, and I’ve done several books (Fearless Love, Hungry Heart, Love in the Morning) in which either the hero or the heroine is a chef—sometimes both! My Brewing Love trilogy for Entangled Publishing (Love On Tap, Saison For Love, Wild Love coming in June), however, centers on brewing beer rather than cooking. At the heart of the trilogy is a struggling craft brewery—Antero Brewing. But as a Colorado resident (the state has over 300 craft breweries), I can guarantee that beer goes well with food, and cooking is definitely part of the Antero, Colorado, scene.
In the first book in the trilogy, Love On Tap, the hero, Wyatt Montgomery, needs to convince the heroine, Bec Dempsey, that he’s a good cook. It’s all part of Wyatt’s plan to purchase Bec’s last barrel of imperial stout for his Denver gastropub. To convince her of his cooking chops, Wyatt promises to cook her a great dinner based only on the ingredients she currently has in her refrigerator. To make things even more interesting, Bec herself is only a rudimentary cook and she’s living in a makeshift apartment above the brewery.
Bec hadn’t been kidding about the inadequacy of her kitchen. Wyatt managed not to grimace as he checked out the equipment. He had indeed worked with worse—he hadn’t been lying. On the other hand, he hadn’t done a great job with worse, and he sure as hell hadn’t been happy doing it. Still, right now he needed to impress her with his skills, and he couldn’t do that by whining.
He opened the smallish refrigerator, checking the meat drawer and the hydrator. Chicken breasts, lettuce, a few stalks of broccoli.
“Where do you keep the rest of the food?” He gave her an encouraging smile. Not a criticism, so help me.
She gestured toward the wall cabinets. “First one on the right is sort of the pantry. I’ve got dishes and pans in the others.”
He nodded, pulling open the pantry door. Sandwich bread, peanut butter, a half-empty jar of blackberry jam. And—oh, thank you, kitchen gods—a bag of noodles. “Okay, one chicken divan coming up.”
Wyatt manages to find all the ingredients he needs in Bec’s kitchen except for sherry—Bec’s a brewmaster, not a wine drinker. But necessity being the mother of invention, he improvises, using a bottle of wheat beer she happens to have on hand. He cooks dinner on Bec’s two-burner hotplate, then watches her reaction as she takes her first bite. If she doesn’t like his cooking, he won’t get her imperial stout, and if he doesn’t get that stout, his gastropub may go under. Which is to say, there’s a lot riding on that first bite:
He carried the plates to the table, sliding into the chair opposite her. “Okay, I’ve never made this with beer before, so I can’t absolutely guarantee it. But it should be edible.”
She gave him a quick smile. “It smells a lot better than that.”
Actually, it was a lot better than that. The beer didn’t have the nutty flavor of the sherry, but it gave the chicken a slightly toasted taste and worked with the cheese sauce. Not bad. Not bad at all.
“This is terrific,” Bec murmured after a couple of bites. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you. You definitely know what you’re doing. You can make dinner for me anytime.”
Wyatt does cook for Bec again, and they have a few more bumps, some of them major, before they seal the deal. But it’s the chicken divan that gets things going. Here’s a modified version, made with sherry since I’m assuming, unlike Wyatt, you’ve got access to a few more ingredients.
1 bunch broccoli, chopped
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T butter
3 T flour
3⁄4 c chicken broth
1⁄2 c milk
1⁄3 c sherry
1 c shredded cheese (cheddar or Swiss)
Salt and pepper
Noodles or rice for serving
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Steam broccoli for 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain in colander.
In a medium frying pan, sauté chicken breasts in olive oil until lightly browned. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then gradually whisk in chicken broth, sherry, and milk until incorporated. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add dash of nutmeg. Add 3/4 of the cheese and whisk until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a 9×13 dish arrange chicken breasts (either whole or sliced) and broccoli. Pour sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil with slits to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, taking off the aluminum foil for the last 10.
Serve over egg noodles or rice
Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of contemporary romance. Her newest series, Brewing Love, is set in the Colorado craft brewing scene. Meg’s Konigsburg series is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box trilogy is set in her new home, the Colorado Rockies (both are available from Entangled Publishing). Along with contemporary romance, Meg also writes paranormal romance, including the Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix and the Folk series to be published by Soul Mate Publishing in 2018. Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers. Meg’s Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/megbenjamin/), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wyatt Montgomery knows a barrel of legendary Zoria imperial stout will help his Denver gastropub stay on top. The only problem is the brewery that made it is no longer in business. When Wyatt hears the brewmaster has only one barrel left, he won’t stop until it’s his. He doesn’t consider what this mythical barrel might cost him. And he certainly doesn’t anticipate his reaction to the heart-stoppingly beautiful brewmaster he needs to convince to sell him the beer.
When Wyatt rushes into Bec Dempsey’s small-town cooperative offering to buy the last barrel of her precious Zoria, she’s thrown for a loop. She’s been burned by city-slickers before, and she’ll be damned if she’ll let it happen again. But when things start heating up between them, Bec decides to make Wyatt a counteroffer. One she hopes he won’t refuse.
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Thanks so much, Meg! That sounds like my kind of recipe, and the story sounds tempting, too! I’ve used wine in cooking, and even some gin or beer, but never sherry. Hmm. I guess I’ve been missing out on using the warmth and robust flavor of the sherry in my recipes. I will have to try it!
That wraps up this round of Tasty Tuesday posts, but please enjoy the new series of Don’t Say That! posts on Mondays about words I had to avoid in my A More Perfect Union historical romance series and other historical stories set in the 18th and 19th centuries. I’ll be looking at how language has changed along with the technological advances and the words that would be anachronistic (futuristic, in a sense) for my characters if I used them. It’s intended to be a fun and light-hearted exploration into the evolution of words and language. Enjoy!
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