Sunday, September 11, 2011

That Chicken I Love. The One With the Sauce

Fact: my mother is an amazing cook.  After Hubby's first visit to my parents' house for dinner he couldn't stop asking me how my sister and I didn't have a line of guys out the door wanting to date us just for the meals they'd be treated to.  I especially love going to my parents' house for dinner when I get to request the meal.  I don't know how many times my mother and I have had the following conversation:

              Mom: I'm so glad you are coming to dinner, what do you want to eat?
              Me: Oooh! How about that chicken I love?
              Mom: Which chicken?
              Me: You know, the one with the sauce.
              Mom: Oh, ok.  I can do that. 

And sure enough, every time she knows to make me this delicious tarragon chicken.  

Unfortunately, the number of times that we can coordinate our schedules for a small family dinner of my favorite tarragon chicken have become few and far between over the years.  So I had to ask my mom for her recipe in order to make it for myself whenever the craving hits me.  And during this week of rain, the craving hit me hard core.  

I start with putting three chicken breasts on parchment paper. 

Fold over the parchment paper to cover the chicken breasts and lightly pound them.  You don't want them to be too thin, just evened out. 

See how the top 2 breasts are a little flattened out compared to the bottom breast? 

When the chicken breasts are all pounded out sprinkle them with salt.

and fresh cracked pepper.

Meanwhile, fill a plate with some Italian seasoned bread crumbs.

Add 2 tablespoons of tarragon to the bread crumbs and the mix it all together.

One at a time, place a chicken breast onto the plate with bread crumbs and press down gently.

Repeat on the other side. This will create a nice light crust.  Just enough for a bit of texture, but not a full on dredge.

When all the breasts are coated, place them in a saute pan with a tablespoon of olive oil heated on medium-high.  At this point, you'll also want to pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Let the chicken breasts cook for 5 minutes on the first side.

While the chicken cooks, give a yellow onion a rough chop.

When the first side is brown and crispy, flip the breasts and let them cook for another 5 minutes.

At this point, remove the chicken breasts to a plate while you create the sauce.  To do this, lower the heat to medium and throw the chopped onions into the same pan you cooked the chicken in with a little extra drizzle of olive oil.

Add 2 heavy pinches of salt to the onions while they brown up and get translucent.

While the onions are cooking, open up a nice high quality bottle of wine.  Nothing but the best in my house.  I dropped a whole $3.50 on this bottle.

Once again I have to take a moment to say a little prayer of thanks that I have a Trader Joes in my life. And that Hubby has a client whose office is across the street from a Trader Joes that sells alcohol. Whenever he has a meeting there, we stock up on the Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio ($3.50) and the Joseph Handler Riesling ($4.25.)

Go ahead and poor yourself a glass too.

Once the onions are translucent and brown, bring the heat back up to medium - high and pour in about 1/2 cup of wine.  You can omit the wine if you have an aversion to cooking with alcohol.  It'll still taste good, but the wine definitely adds a lovely tang to the sauce.

Let the wine reduce by at least half.  This will allow all the alcohol to cook out and give the onions a chance to absorb all the deliciousness.  While it is reducing, stir the sauce, making sure to really scrape the bottom of the pan.  You want to loosen every bit of flavor from the chicken that had been cooked in earlier.

Once the wine is good and reduced, pour in a cup of chicken broth.  Stir it to combine and let it simmer for a minute or two.

Add the chicken breasts back in.  The sauce should come about half way up the chicken breasts.  You can always add more broth (or wine) if you need more moisture.

Cover the pan and place in the pre-heated oven for 20 -30 minutes.

At this point, your house smells so good you risk sending yourself into hyperventilation by inhaling too deep and too often.  

Once the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let it sit uncovered for a few minutes.  Be careful, the pan is very hot.  That includes the handle.  A fact I kept forgetting while serving myself a piece of chicken and trying to steady the pan without a pot holder.

Serve the chicken alongside a few spoonfuls of rice and a little green salad.  I also pour a few spoonfuls of the sauce over the rice.  The sauce and onions coat the rice and flavors every bite with a tanginess from the wine, earthiness from the tarragon and sweetness from the onions.

I must advise you to plan ahead and make enough of this meal to have leftovers.  When packing up the extras, put a layer of rice in the bowl/dish and then the chicken and sauce on top.  The sauce will soak into the rice while all the flavors continue to combine and the result is truly sublime.  Sometimes, I prefer the leftovers of this meal more than the first night.

This was absolutely the perfect meal to warm me up during a cold, rainy week.  Thanks for the recipe Mom! I love you.

Shopping List for Tarragon Chicken (makes 4 servings)

  • 3 Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Cups Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Dried Tarragon
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Yellow or White Onion - Roughly Chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Your Favorite White Wine (I would avoid anything too sweet)
  • 1 Cup Chicken Broth
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • Cooked White Rice

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