Friday, January 20, 2017

French Style Chicken

This past weekend my local paper’s magazine section had an article on how to cook chicken in various French-ish ways. I cook a lot of chicken, and I like French cooking, so I read on. [Please note that all parties shall remain nameless, because I disagreed with just about everything the author said.]

The author started out by claiming that a lot of cooks are still scared of exotic-sounding recipes, despite Julia Child’s eye-opening influence (which now dates back half a century! But I think they’re still the gold standard: she explains clearly and well, and the recipes work). The author claims that the dishes presented in the article are simple, if you know some basic techniques.

“Simple” is kind of a slippery idea. The author goes on to present recipes that are about as over-wrought as any contemporary ones that I’ve seen. We here at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen love to give you new and interesting recipes from all sorts of sources, but we try to offer recipes that normal people can make. Maybe we take some shortcuts, but what we’re aiming for is tasty food that’s easy to put together.

This author missed the boat. Actual, the author lost me when author added sugar to the chicken. That was the first step in the recipe. Author then devoted ten lines to sautéeing boneless skinless chicken breasts. We do know how to do that, don’t we?

And so it went. Every step, every ingredient, was described to death, but not in a clear way. How the heck do you grate garlic (without grating your fingers)? What is a “strong simmer”? “Slightly reduced”? One instruction was to simmer something for 40 seconds. Do you keep a stopwatch by your stove?

Hey, it’s a recipe that sounds flavorful, so I gave it a shot anyway, translating it into normal cooking language—you know, “chop,” “mince,” “low heat,” “stir until thickened.” Instructions we can all understand. And it tasted just fine!

Sauteed Chicken French Style

The ingredients
The ingredients, chopped and measured
4 chicken breasts (note: you can use either boneless, skinless ones, which cook quickly, or bone-in, which I think taste better—just make sure they’re cooked through)

1 Tblsp vegetable oil
2 Tblsp butter
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 Tblsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves, depending on size)
1 Tblsp flour
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tblsp fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sautee the chicken until lightly browned, turning once. Set aside.

Will someone please explain to me why when
you buy a package with two pieces, they're
never the same size?

Reduce the heat, add the butter and let it melt. Add the shallots, thyme and a half tsp of salt and cook over medium-low heat until the shallots are soft. 

Add the garlic and flour and cook for about a minute.

Add the wine, scrape the pan to gather up all those tasty bits that stuck to it, and whisk until there are no lumps. Cook for about a minute longer, until the sauce is thickened. Add the broth and stir.

Return the chicken and any juices from it to the pan, dunk both sides in the sauce, cover and cook until the chicken is done [yanno, you can use a meat thermometer, or you can poke it to see how springy it is, but chicken breasts vary so widely in size that there’s no single right cooking time. Just make sure it’s not pink in the middle.]. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm while you finish the sauce.

Add the cream to the sauce in the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Taste and add salt and pepper if you like. Stir in the parsley. 

Pour the sauce over the chicken pieces and serve with rice (or a carb of your choice). To quote the immortal and pragmatic Julia Child, “Bon appetit!”

Looks a bit messy but it tastes good!

Cruel Winter (County Cork #5), coming in less than two months!

You may have noticed that Maura Donovan doesn't cook. But her young barmaid Rose does, and when a group of people get snowed in overnight at Maura's pub, Sullivan's in Leap, Rose dusts off the old kitchen in the back and feeds the crowd!

(And yes, it snowed in County Cork this month. It happens!)

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  1. Messy is usually good! It does look good.

  2. It's the taste that matters, right? The sauce was nice, and the whole dish would cook quickly if you used boneless breasts (once you finished chopping things).

  3. A plain looking did can look great with a some freshly chopped parsley or some chopped green onions if that goes with your other ingredients just to make your dish more appealing to the eye. I have always been thought of as a cook who likes to garnish. It is my food "art" I guess.

  4. Thyme, lemon, and cream? It has to be delicious!

  5. Sheila, I'm with you on Julia recipes. They may look overly complicated at first glance, because she sets out the steps in such detail, but they are so clear -- and every step makes a difference!

  6. Lovely. Julia would be proud!
    Why is it some people feel the need to over-complicate recipes? Do they want to sound more impressive?
    Straight forward with fun twists does the job.

    1. I'm still puzzling over that 40-second rule. When do you start counting? When you add the first piece to the pan? When both of them are there? Then one will cook for 45 seconds instead of 40!

  7. Who got the small chicken breast?
    I agree with you about Julia Child: she still rocks.

    1. The excess on the big one went to the cat (luckily we have only one who likes chicken). But why don't whoever cuts them up simply put the two sides in one package? Or do they just toss everything on to an assembly line, and the packers grab whatever goes by?

  8. That looks delicious, I think I'm going to try it with my carb of choice - potatoes! Thanks for the recipe! :-)