Last Monday’s dinner – Orange Beef Str Fry – was, in a word, blah. The picture is way better than the taste of the dish. I’d had such hope for a recipe that was dog-eared long ago. L and S were generous and actually ate theirs. J was not so compliant and ate rice, then made herself a bagel. Instead of interesting conversation, I think most of the meal was spent trying to convince J that she should eat what she is served and dinner was fine, that she was whining for no reason. It is hard to convince this kid and even harder when you know the food is mediocre. I’m a stir fry failure. Further indication to me that I should only eat most Asian cuisine at restaurants.
Tuesday was a different story. Our good friend, JO, joined us at the spur of the moment for dinner. Always a treat (and he brought Citizen Cake cookies for dessert!). We were engrossed in conversation, so I forgot to take a picture, even with the camera on the table, until it was too late.
I made another dog-eared recipe from an old copy of Cook’s Illustrated. The recipe was for pan roasted chicken breasts. Easy, elegant, relatively quick. S ate the leftovers for lunch on Wednesday and L asked for them as a snack. She was pretty sad to hear that the leftovers had been consumed already. I tweaked the recipe because of ingredients on hand. Here it is. Make it. It is very delicious.
Note: I couldn’t find the publication date on the old magazine that I used. Strange. Nowhere to be found. I believe it was from 2004 because of the dates referenced in some of the letters to the editor. The original recipe can be found at www.cooksillustrated.com.
Pan-Roasted Chicken Breast with Sage-Vermouth Sauce
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1/2 cup kosher salt (I use Diamond)
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves of similar size totally approximately 3 lbs. (3/4 lb. each), rib sections trimmed off (the thin part with no meat on it)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (I used 3/4 cup water with 1/2 tsp. organic “Better Than Bouillon” chicken base)
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1/4 tsp. dried rubbed sage
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put an oven rack on the lowest position with enough room above it to hold an oven-proof frying pan.
1. Dissolve salt in 1 quart of cold water, in a large bowl. Submerge the chicken breasts into the salt solution. This is an important step – do not leave it out. The chicken gains substantial flavor and moisture from this step. Leave this bowl on the counter for 30 minutes. Then, drain and rinse the chicken pieces thoroughly. Dry the chicken pieces completely with paper towel. Season the chicken with ground pepper, as desired.
2. Heat the 1 tsp. oil in a large (11-12 inches), oven-proof frying pan over medium-high heat until very hot and the oil is beginning to smoke. Swirl the oil in the pan and add the chicken breasts, skin side down, to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes until the skin is medium-golden brown. Turn the chicken and brown the other side for about 3 minutes more. Turn the chicken again so that the skin side is down, and put it in the 450 degree oven on the lowest rack.
3. Roast the chicken until it is cooked, about 15-18 minutes longer (until it is 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part). Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest while you make the sauce.
4. [Cook’s Illustrated notes – VERY IMPORTANT – to cover the handle of the pan with a potholder so that you don’t think of grabbing the handle while it is 450 degrees….I’ve done this. It hurts. A lot. For days.]
5. Pour most of the fat from the skillet and place the handle covered pan onto medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot has softened and is beginning to color, about 1 minute. This goes very quickly because the pan is so hot. Then add the broth, vermouth, and the dried sage, deglazing the pan as the liquids bubble up. Reduce the liquid to about 3/4 cup and is slightly thickened. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the juices that the chicken has released into the pan. Then stir in the butter, one piece at a time, until you get a velvety sauce.
6. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.