Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cozy Comfort Food

As I am writing this, I am sitting at my desk with a pleasantly full belly, listening to the gentle pattering of rain falling against the window. Sorry if that was overly poetic for you, but I am basking in that dreamy haze one only experiences after a good, uncomplicated square meal. I’m not talking about the feeling one gets after eating something exotic or elegant. While these are notable experiences, tonight, I only want to talk about the simple pleasure of enjoying an ordinary home-cooked meal. Warm, creamy, and savory all describe the chicken I made for dinner.
Yes, I know, there is way too much food on that plate. It’s messy and unbalanced and I don’t care. It was awesome. I served the chicken I’m going to talk about with a creamy risotto of my own invention, and the incredible roasted broccoli Adam recently blogged about over at The Amateur Gourmet.

The chicken recipe comes from a Jamie Oliver cookbook. It is a chicken breast stuffed with sautéed mushrooms and garlic and parsley, wrapped in puff pastry, baked, and then finished off with a creamy Dijon-wine sauce. The tantalizing picture in the cookbook lead me to believe that this could be tricky and fussy for two reasons: first, I always seem to have trouble with stuffing chicken breasts—I always either don’t cut a big enough pocket in it, or I cut it in the wrong place, or I over-stuff it. Second, I was certain that the puff pastry would give me trouble even though I bought it in frozen sheets. I imagined it would somehow end up in a tangled, unsalvageable mess that I would inevitably throw across the kitchen in an angry fit. Not that that’s ever happened before … ahem.

ANYWAYS, as you’ve probably already discerned, none of these things happened and the recipe was a success. The garlicky mushroom filling added a welcome earthiness to the rich pastry and sauce. And also, wow, there are few things that smell better than sautéing mushrooms and garlic in a healthy chunk of butter.

Stuffing the breasts went off without a hitch. I think that actually having the right size of breast—nice, big 7 oz ones—made a world of difference. Obviously, trying to cram a bunch of stuffing into a tiny slit in a small piece of meat is just asking for trouble. Now, I can’t actually finish an entire 7 oz chicken breast on my own, but that’s what boyfriends are for!
Wrapping the breasts in puff pastry was quite easy as well. I used puff pastry sheets from Pepperidge Farms, and one sheet was the perfect amount for two breasts.

While the chicken was baking, I prepared my broccoli, risotto, and sauce. I managed to time it perfectly—usually, I always have something that takes too long, or something done way too soon, but this all came together quite well. And the chicken came out of the oven looking like heaven, ready for Andrew and me to curl up, dig in, and enjoy!

Superb Chicken
Adapted from Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver, where it was titled My Old Man’s Superb Chicken
Serves 4

6 oz of mushrooms (I used white and cremini, but feel free to experiment with different varieties!)
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 hand-full chopped fresh parsley
4 7oz skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 1lb 2oz package of puff pastry sheets (2 sheets)
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard (Jamie Oliver uses whole-grain)
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup cream
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F

Chop the mushrooms, half rough, half fine. Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat, and add the garlic and mushrooms. Sautee slowly for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley. Allow to cool.

Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise, going only about halfway through so that you create a pocket in each chicken breast. Stuff the pockets with the cooled mushroom mixture. Cut each of the pastry sheets in half lengthwise and wrap one half around each of the chicken breasts. Don’t worry about it being perfect—just do your best to cover as much of the chicken as possible. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg, and cook in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, heat the mustard and wine in a small saucepan. Simmer and reduce until you can no longer smell the alcohol—ten minutes or so, but use your nose. Stir in the cream and simmer until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve one breast per person and drizzle with the sauce.

If you liked this post--or even if you didn't--please leave me a comment and let me know. I'd love to hear what you think!

1 comment: