Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Deb's Herbs inspired dinner

Our friend Deborah sent over some chives and rosemary. There was half a bottle of White Loire kicking around from Sunday's festivities. Kathy brought home some chicken breast fillets. I decided to poach the chicken as follows:

Prep breast fillets. (I trim and butterfly to achieve a consistent thickness.) Rub very sparingly with kosher salt, just a bit of pepper melange du jour (tonight's - white pepper, coriander seed, allspice, nutmeg, clove), and a tablespoon or so of EVOO that's had a clove of garlic bruised in it - but not chopped up. No more than a pinch of rub is used for each side of a piece of chicken. The garlic should be well back in this preparation - not too much. Set fillets aside, loosely covered, on a counter away from heat - no refrigeration is needed providing that you'll be cooking them soon enough. In fact, given the way we're going to cook these it's very helpful to allow them to come up toward room temp (again, providing they don't spend much time like that.)

While the chicken is tempering toward room temp, place about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, the leaves from a 3" sprig of rosemary, finely chopped, 3 TBS chopped fresh chives and a teaspoon or so of dried fines herbs (or substitute fresh if available) in an oven-proof casserole. Use one large enough to accommodate all your fillets lying flat directly on the bottom, without overlapping. (But - lest there should be any confusion on this point - do not add the chicken yet.) Add a stick of butter (or less if you can't stand the idea of so much) and place the casserole into a hot oven for a few minutes. Meanwhile, bring about 10 ounces of the wine to simmering temp and add a little pepper melange.

When butter has cooked off most of its moisture, remove casserole from oven, arrange the the chicken fillets on the bottom and turn over to coat both sides. Pour the simmering wine in and agitate the fillets just to incorporate the wine with the butter and spice mixture. Cover and let sit (off heat). Providing that you've used a heavy enough casserole, the residual heat in the casserole and wine are sufficient to poach the chicken. If not, place the casserole back into a low oven. The best result, though, is obtained with the passive - i.e. residual heat method. As the chicken cooks, the pan and liquid lose temperature to the meat and the entire thing comes to equilibrium at the perfect temperature for the chicken - resulting in a velvety smooth texture that can not be obtained with higher temperature cooking techniques.

Serve the chicken with some simple rice and spoon some of the cooking liquid over the top. More wine along the lines of that used in the cooking works very well as you might imagine.

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