Oddly, I until dinnertime today, I hadn't had chicken in quite some time. My CostCo chicken reserves have long been depleted, and I haven't gone to eat at an actual restaurant in...I don't even know how long (although my trip home to Atlanta this weekend will most certainly remedy that).
I forgot how great chicken can be when only treated to a little olive oil, white wine, and lemon. And while fresh chicken breasts can sometimes be shockingly expensive ($12 for three chicken breasts?!?), I found a great deal at my local (usually astonishingly overpriced - $7 for marinara sauce, no joke) market.
My dear friend Megan, of my agency alma mater, came over bearing a deliciously dry and crisp Pinot Grigio (which was integrated perfectly into the chicken as well as the conversation). This method of cooking chicken is, dare I say, infallible. If there are those of you out there reading this thinking, "I wish I could make that, but I'm horribly inept in the kitchen," I IMPLORE you to give this method a try.
It's actually quite fun: you get to beat your meat (yes, that's what I said). Then, it cooks up quickly, it's juicy and flavorful, and you've made a bona fide chicken dish in about 15 minutes (suck it, Racheal Ray!).
The scalloped potatoes might be a tad more on the intermediate level - only because of the bechamel sauce - but if you were to make chicken like this and pair it with salad and an easy starch like Success Rice, instant mashed potatoes, or couscous, you'd have a perfect meal. If you don't believe me, behold:
LEMON-CILANTRO CHICKEN AND PURPLE SCALLOPED POTATOES
1 1/4 lb. purple potatoes (you could use any starchy variety)
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 1/2 c. milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. (about 1 c. grated) smoked Swiss cheese (if you can't find it, try fontina)
1 oz. grated fresh parmesan, plus more for the topping
1/4 c. seasoned bread crumbs
salt and pepper
ground cayenne pepper
2 fresh chicken breast halves (or one full breast)
2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/3 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. (packed) fresh chopped cilantro (you could use parsley or any herb you like)
1/2 c. flour
salt and pepper
fresh Spring greens mix
quick lemon "vinaigrette" - 1 tsp. each lemon juice, mustard, mayo, honey, and a dash of salt, pepper, and salt-free all-purpose seasoning - whisk in about 2 T. olive oil.
Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, but not so soft that they're mashable. When cool enough to touch, cut into thin slices. Layer in a shallow dish.
Preheat the oven to 375. Make the cheese bechamel: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Whisk in the flour, making a roux, and cook for another minute. Whisk in the milk, stirring constantly. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it cook until it begins to thicken (coating the back of a spoon). Reduce the heat a little and stir in the cheese, whisking until melted. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat and pour over the potatoes.
Top the scalloped potatoes with bread crumbs and some more grated parmesan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until top is browned and sides are bubbly.
Assemble the dressing and salad. Slice each chicken breast half with a knife - almost but not quite all the way through (butterflying it). Beat with a meat mallet until thin.
In a shallow bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper. In a nonstick skillet, heat the butter and oil for the chicken over medium-high. While it's melting, dredge each chicken breast half in the seasoned flour. Cook until browned on the first side, adding a little more salt and pepper to the raw side. Flip and cook on the other side. Repeat for the other chicken breast half. Set aside.
Do not drain anything from the pan, and reduce the heat to medium. Add the lemon juice and white wine, stirring, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cilantro. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook for 4-5 more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
Spoon some scalloped potatoes onto each plate. Serve the chicken, scraping the pan sauce over each serving. Serve the salad alongside everything. Enjoy!
The purple potatoes, by the way, taste exactly like regular potatoes, they're just more fun to look at. (They were a farmer's market find). The smoky Swiss sauce with a hint of heat from the cayenne pepper was luscious - I mean how can potatoes and cheese be bad? The chicken was moist and lemony, and I was actually really surprised how good the cilantro was in the sauce - cilantro takes on a totally different flavor when cooked.
I'll just reiterate that I stand behind this chicken method 110% (boy blog-readers, this goes out especially to you). Try it and let me know how it came out in the comments (NOTE: if you don't like cilantro, use parsley or thyme).
FEARLESS COOK ANNOUNCEMENT:
People: my very next post will be my 100th post! How exciting is that? 100 posts. A true milestone in the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of the blogosphere. I want to do something special, and I've been thinking that I'd like to take a 100-year-old recipe and make it 100% organic (which, now that I really think about it, 100 years ago, ALL recipes were organic - ha).
I found a delectable-looking Devil's Food cake recipe from 1909 on the internet, which would be simple to make and fantastic to eat. I might even make a little gathering out of it, with coffee and liqueur. Who's with me?
Thanks for reading! More soon...