Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chicken This and That

Cooking with Friends - updated

The afternoon was supposed to be Cooking Chicken 101, the first installment on a gift coupon. Official cooking lessons? maybe, but it felt more like hanging out with friends in the kitchen. Hilary had requested we begin with different cooking preps for chicken. Easy enough I thought, I have a gazillion chicken recipes. The sheer abundance of recipes presented a problem: what to choose? how much to try in one afternoon? Time to refocus on methods and not just recipes. 

We began with a Pine Nut and Parmesan Crusted Lemon Chicken Scallopini (link). That introduced the girls to prepping the chicken breasts, the 3-step breading process and a quick stovetop sauté. Hilary and Chelsea whipped through this recipe like professionals. Two frying pans sizzled, the kitchen smelled heavenly and the four of us declared this recipe a keeper. Four? oh yes, RL was an eager taste-tester along with the kitchen crew. We shared the chicken breasts, nibbled on a pasta salad and some fresh grapes and headed back to work.

Next up was Chicken Piccata. It began with the same technique for chicken breast slicing and pounding, skipped the breading, and moved on to a quick sauté. The focus here was on creating a pan sauce. Note the bottles in the background of the photo above - we sampled several beverages to select just two for different sauces. 

What's a pan sauce? The short version is:
  • cook meat or fish in a sauté pan over high heat until it's done and leaves brown bits in the pan (remove the meat from the pan and keep it warm)
  • add a flavorful liquid to the pan, stir it around to incorporate the fond or brown bits
  • add flavorings like herbs or aromatics to the pan and cook to reduce the liquid
  • swirl in a pat or two of butter to thicken the sauce, return the meat and any meat juices to the pan briefly to coat with the sauce and serve immediately

The vermouth-based sauce won out over the white wine sauce, but both chicken dishes were tasty. We might revisit pan sauces again with different aromatics and liquids.

The third recipe was baked Mustard and Maple Syrup-Coated Chicken Thighs (link). Skinning and de-fatting the thighs took some time but the dish went together easily enough. This recipe called for 45 minutes in the oven, followed by a 3-minute broil to crisp up the topping. It smelled inviting, but by this time we were all too full for one more plate of chicken. I'll wait for a tasting report from the girls.

Updated by e-mail: Monday, March 5, 2012
Oh my goodness chicken dish #3 was surprisingly delightful! We got home from a long and hard first day back on the job to find our dinner awaiting us. We gave the dish a quick micro and broiled it for a few minutes (though we think we may need to play with this feature on our oven a bit because it didn't quite crisp up as we'd hoped) ...and 'voila!' a yummy homemade dinner and much needed alternative to Mr. Lean Cuisine was on our table.  

What surprised us most was how well the flavors worked together...a perfect combination of sweet and salty! We did find the bone a little tough to work around, since we were wanting to just gobble all of the deliciousness down! So, when we try this recipe again (which we most definitely will!), we will probably go with boneless, or maybe a breast? 

Conclusions of the day: 
Chef Chelsea: Dish #1 takes the cake! (mmmm...cake may be something fun to work on in the future), followed by #2 and finally #3
Chef Hilary: also likes cake...and chicken #1 the best, followed by #3 and finally #2

Oh what fun we both had with you yesterday! We can't wait to do it again soon! All we talk about is food now, and what the next session may bring! 

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