Goodbye to Winter
Here’s some extra-fancy everyday cooking to help you fend off the last, chilly hurrah. Fast Chicken is some serious comfort food that will get you through the – fingers crossed – final weekend of winter. When you pair it with rich, crispy, hasselback-gratin potatoes, It tastes like a mini Thanksgiving. You’ll need a bit of time to put the potatoes together, but a lot of it will be unattended. Fortunately, the chicken comes together in a snap. This a perfect Saturday or Sunday meal. It also reheats really well, so you’ll love the leftovers.
Potato Gratin in a Cast-Iron Pan
The prep for these potatoes goes quickly and isn’t as taxing as you’d think. Then there’s a fairly long bake, during which you can practice that Beethoven Sonata you’ve been meaning to get to. Click here for the potato recipe. (Click here for the sonata!)
Start in on the chicken during the last few minutes of the potatoes’ bake time.
Chicken Breast Fricassee
This is a fast fricassee, because it uses boneless chicken breasts instead of a whole, bone-in chicken. “Fricassee” is a braising method; it starts out on the stovetop and winds up baking in a liquid. Braising is a slow-cooking method, and here I am trying to sell you on a fast slow-cook. Maybe I should call it “chicken conundrum.” Let me tell you, though, it tastes fantastic and sophisticated.
What you need for 2-4 servings:
1½ cups chicken stock
1½ Tbs flour
¼ tsp of salt
¼ tsp dried thyme
4 Tbs butter
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into matchsticks (or another thin shape)
1 medium celery stalk, sliced into matchsticks (or another shape)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 1½ lbs, whichever comes first), trimmed of any large pieces of fat
½ cup white wine (Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2012)
1 egg yolk (optional)
¼ cup of crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
Fresh lemon juice
Sautéed greens, optional
How to do it:
Place the chicken stock in a microwavable container and set aside. In a
teacup John Wayne mug, mix flour, thyme, and a pinch of pepper; set aside.
Heat a 10-inch, cast iron pan over a medium-high flame. Add butter. Once the butter’s fully melted, add the onion, carrot, and celery and turn heat to medium-low. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºF, and dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, saving any extra flour.
Push the vegetables to one side of the pan, and add the chicken. Turn the flame to high and sauté until nicely browned, about 10 minutes (checking every few minutes after five). If your stovetop allows for it, shift the pan so that the fire is right under the chicken. Meanwhile, prep a temperature probe for a 160ºF alarm, and nuke the stock until it boils, 3-4 minutes on full power.
Flip the chicken, sprinkle the remaining flour mixture over the vegetables, pour the stock and wine over the flour, and insert the probe into the thickest part of the thickest breast. Carefully cover the pan tightly with foil (or place a lid on it, if you have one) and transfer the pan to the oven. (Meanwhile, if using the yolk, whisk it together with the crème.)
Once the chicken comes to temperature (about 20 minutes), remove the chicken from the pan and tent it. Over a high flame, reduce the pan liquid (with the vegetables still in it) until it coats the back of the a spoon, about 4 minutes. Off heat. Whisk scant tablespoons of the pan liquid into the crème mixture, one at a time, until you’ve raised the mixture’s temperature to pleasantly warm. (This takes about 8 one-at-a-time tablespoons of pan liquid.) Whisk the crème mixture into the pan, and light a medium-high flame under it. Bring to a boil, stirring casually but constantly, and allow to boil for 1 minute. Off heat. Add juice by the ¼-tsp, to taste. Correct seasoning.
To serve the dish immediately, plate the chicken (over a bed of greens) and cover it with sauce. To keep it for later or to serve it immediately family style, add the chicken to the pan. Serve with the same wine you opened for the recipe, assuming you didn’t polish it off while you were cooking (although I don’t see how you could have … those broken chords and tremomos should’ve kept both your hands fully occupied).
- Usually you don’t brown fricassee meat. I love that delicious crust, though. If you don’t want to brown, sauté at a lower temperature.
- This dish pairs absofantastically with brown rice. Get a rice cooker. You can pick up a simple one for less than $20. You just pop in the rice with some water and a tiny bit of salt, push the button, and forget about it. Comes out perfectly. (Also steams veggies.)
- If you want to, you can slice the cooked chicken into bite-sized chunks once the sauce is complete, and toss the whole thing together.
- If you want to go with the greens, any sort will do. I used baby spinach for this post, sautéed in butter and seasoned lightly. Mustard greens would be nice; rapini greens might be interesting. Steamed or wilted would be fine, but I’d steer clear of any method using olive oil. Olive oil won’t pair well with this particular sauce.
- I don’t expect you to own two 10-inch cast iron skillets – which you need to make the potatoes and chicken. You could make the potatoes in a shallow, 2-quart casserole or baking dish.
- Never be out-played by your chicken.
Fast Chicken and Slow Potatoes (w/Spinach)
Credit for images on this page: Make It Like a Man! Clicking on images will enlarge them. This content was not solicited, nor written in exchange for anything. In doing research for this recipe, I consulted “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” by Julia Child et al., which I found to be helpful. I also flew to Vienna and paid Beethoven a visit, which I also found quite helpful.
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