Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You don't always need fairy dust

Last night, I arrived home feeling rather uninspired.  It had been a long and frustrating day and I wanted nothing more than to sink into the couch with a glass of good (even mediocre) wine and get lost in a mindlessly entertaining (even boringly predictable) movie about human folly and Edwardian sensibility.  What I also really wanted was for dinner to magically materialize all on its own.  And I wanted great dinner service with a charming (even handsome) staff to pamper me, quietly clean up the kitchen, then go away.

I assure you that none of my fantasies, harmless though they were, came to be realities.  And I'm sure that's because I'm fresh out of fairy dust, which Amazon.com tells me is still on back-order.  It seems everyone has had a need for assistance with fantasy-materialization lately.

Even though it was I that had to make dinner magically materialize (my husband is out of fairy dust too, but his fairy dust has been known to produce things like chocolate bars, take-out pizza and fast food hamburgers), the outcome of my efforts enervated me, even surprised me.  Where the energy all came from, I don't know.  But cooking intuitively has always transported me.

I really want you to try this recipe for chicken breasts.  The sauce is incredibly silky and piquant with just a hint of richness from the butter and the bacon fat.  There is depth from the brandy. There is tart fruit from the red wine and the orange peel and then there is the counterpoint of sweet shallots.  The last little surprise is the crunch from the bacon cracklings.  I would imagine it would also be a stupendous choice for pork cutlets.

I served the chicken alongside sauteed spinach (been there, done that) and a wild rice pilaf with orange peel, garlic and shallots (been there, done some variation of that).  The sides were good friends that I often call in to meet a new main dish and we enjoyed them.  But what we really enjoyed was the tender, caramelized chicken breast with its gorgeous, satiny sauce redolent of brandy, red wine and oranges.  The house still smells wonderful this morning.

Here's the recipe...

Chicken Breasts with Sauce Sevilla

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I used Penzey's shallot salt seasoning)
2 Tbs. EVOO
2-4 Tbs. pieces bacon fat
1 Tbs. butter
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup brandy (preferably Spanish)
1 cup dry red wine (I used a rioja)
2 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup orange marmalade (preferably made with Seville oranges)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

1.  Clean and trim the chicken breasts; pound thin with a mallet between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper.
2.  Season generously on both sides with salt and pepper, or with the shallot salt seasoning.
3.  Heat EVOO and bacon fat in a large skillet, cooking bacon fat on medium-high heat until crispy.
4.  Remove pan from heat, remove cracklings, drain well on paper towels and chop.  Set aside for garnish.
5.  Return pan to heat and bring back to medium-high temperature.
6.  Sear chicken breasts in hot fat until browned and caramelized on both sides.
7.  Remove chicken breasts to a plate or tray and place in oven at 225 degrees to stay warm.
8.  Pour off all but 1 Tbs. fat from skillet and reduce heat to medium.
9.  Melt butter in skillet; add chopped shallots.
10.  Saute shallots until slightly transparent and caramelized, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
11.  Add brandy and reduce liquid until syrupy.
12.  Increase heat to medium-high and add red wine.
13.  Bring to a boil and reduce liquid by about one-half its volume.
14.  Stir in 2 Tbs. butter and incorporate well.
15.  Stir in orange marmalade and incorporate well.
16.  Remove sauce from heat, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
17.  Serve chicken breasts with sauce ladled over, garnishing with chopped fresh parsley and chopped cracklings.  Serves 2.

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