Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chicken Breasts Escoffier

These were delicious. Let's take a look at how I made them. See if you can spot the secret ingredient that helped make them so tasty!

First I clarified a stick of butter. Clarified butter is also called ghee or superbutter. It was my first time clarifying butter but I think I did a decent job. There were some few white chunks left floating around, but it was basically fine.

I had the butter on very low heat, so I had a bunch of time for other stuff. I cut up two chicken breast filets into long strips about an inch wide and wound up with eight in total. If I had it all to do over again, I would have pounded down the thicker ones with the meat hammer, but they were not too dissimilar in thickness and everything got cooked through, so whatever.

To bread the chicken strips, my recipe took a minor deviation from my normal egg/flour-and-egg procedure. I instead dunked them in the superbutter and then breaded them. I think a pastry brush might have been helpful for this, since some of the butter may have gone on a little thick, and a bit of the breading came off in the pan later, but again, whatever. I use 4C bread crumbs out of cheerful associations with the "official bread crumb of the Davis family" campaign from our childhoods which has turned out to be a very effective piece of marketing with respect to me.

I also cut up some grape tomatoes into halves or thirds for later on. I also had my cast iron skillet heating up through this part of the "prep."

I put about half the remaining superbutter into the skillet and let it heat up, then I put the chicken strips in. The eight of them just fit in. They stayed there about five minutes. Up to this point, I had washed my hands about six times, since I'm a bit picky about washing my hands in general, and extremely paranoid about handling raw meat. I also put a bit of salt and pepper on the chicken in the pan. My recipe did not request that I add this to the bread crumbs, so I went along with it. This recipe came down from Escoffier through Alice Waters in California to my Annie Bell cookbook that I'm so damned fond of and have probably made you look at if you've been over to my house.

After the first side of the chicken was done, I flipped the pieces. The first sides had browned very satisfyingly and I added a bit more salt and pepper. I also put on a smaller pan - which I had used before for the clarifying process - and heated up the rest of the superbutter in it. Once this was up to frying temperature, I put the tomato slices in.

(Sorry for the infrequent and low quality pictures. My camera sucks both in terms of taking pictures and functioning for more than twenty minutes on fully charged batteries. Also, my own gifts as a photographer tend to flourish most in situations where I am not rushing to get photos taken, and as you all know, when I'm in the kitchen, I'm all about the business of making food and not of silly dalliances like picture taking.)

The recipe called for a minute or two of frying the tomatoes in the superbutter, but if I do this again, I'll give it a lot longer.

After four or five minutes for the second side of the chicken, I took it off the heat and served it. I poured the tomato/superbutter sauce directly over the chicken, added a hair more salt and pepper, and enjoyed. And enjoy it I did, it was very tasty. The reader now has one more chance to guess what the secret ingredient was. Okay, ready? It was the fact that my dinner contained a stick of butter.

I offered to let my roommates have some, but wound up eating all of it fairly quickly. Despite the heavy fat content and the multiple frying processes, it didn't even give me the kind of gutache some of my more delicious and oil-intensive dishes do. I can't speak to how faithful this pleasantly simple recipe was to Escoffier's original vision, but I think some reflection of his legacy of greatness could certainly be tasted.