Sunday, November 25, 2012

Clean Up Chicken

I have leftover odds and ends I need to use up.  A couple of potatoes rolling around in a drawer, a random onion, and some almost empty cartons of chicken broth.  I bought the broccoli and chicken for tonight's dinner, but the rest of the ingredients were just taking up space in my kitchen. In the upcoming days, I am going to have to be doing the culinary equivalent of jazz improv just to get rid of the crap I have accumulated.  And I do mean crap.  I am all about fresh food and hate processed food, but I find my self continually, for no sane reason, buying the stuff I will avoid eating or using.  For example, I saw bags of frozen meatballs, BOGO, and I thought, hey for the tailgating party, knowing full well I was planning on sliders.  I went to the store sick, and canned soup was on sale.  What do I do, oh hey this will be good for me and I stock up.  I really hate most canned products.  I can taste the can, but that didn't stop me from buying like five.  And not 5 cans that can be thrown in with a dish, like cream of mushroom, no I by something like corn chowder or beef stew.  Now I see them lurking in the back of the pantry and I am trying to ignore them, but I really want to declutter, even, knowing full well as soon as the pantry starts looking tidy (I see empty) and will fill it with more crap I don't want to eat.  It is my own brand of madness that I realize happens but seem powerless to nip in the bud.  Thankfully this is not one of those meals.  I was tidying the fresh ingredients. (on not the carton of stock but...)  After the blogger app deleted my long post on the importance of knowing the basics of making pan sauce, I will try again, even though this pan sauce was not as stellar as the last one;).  It was delicious and all, but not the stand out the chive or the sage cream was.  (Perhaps it was the lack of cream;) 

Ok blogger, in you face!  Here is my pan sauce rant again.  Making a pan sauce is the basis of all good cooking. (IMHO)  It is a way to make the same chicken into a myriad of different dishes that taste good, are easy to make and use one pan so easy clean up.  Really it should be something everyone knows a little of.  In the most basic sense, a pan sauce is when you cook a protein in a pan (if you can avoid nonstick even better for your sauce), remove said protein when done (or almost done if you cook it a bit in the finished sauce) and delaze the bottom of the pan with a, preferably flavorful, liquid.  (water works, but low sodium stock, wine,  etc...)  After most of the liquid cooks out, you add a bit of butter and you have the simplest of pan sauces.  From here you can build.  You could add fresh herbs at the end, or add cream along with, or in place of, the butter for starters.  These sauces are usually intensely flavored and you don't need much on you dish.  I have a voluminous tome of sauces and a good portion of them are based on this model.  And while you can go a little crazy with the sauces, most are along this line or add a thickening agent to a sauce with more liquid.  The three most common I use are a roux, (cook flour in fat in the pan and them add liquid), a slurry, (dissolving flour in a bit of liquid and add it to the sauce somewhere in the middle or end of cooking after the liquid has been added) and a Beurre maniĆ©. (flour and butter mixed in a paste and added like the slurry)  The flour needs to be added with enough cooking time left to cook out the raw flour taste.  A quick note on the use of cream in your sauce.  You can deglaze with a little wine, stock, heck I even had a cream recipe that was deglazed with vinegar, but if you use just a bit and use cream for the main part of your sauce, you can simmer it over a pretty high heat without it breaking.  MILK WILL BREAK!  One more reason cream is better;).  Just simmer cream a bit until thickened an you won't need the butter at the end. I just decided to fact check my self taught self and found that I was not giving you an opinion as fact!  What I call a factopinion;).  Here is what wikipedia says about pan sauces.  To go with the chicken and sauce, I made mashed potatoes. (half russet and half sweet potato) and barely cooked broccoli.

Clean Up Chicken

4 thin chicken breasts
Flour, salt and pepper
1 small onion thinly sliced
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup chicken broth
Splash of sherry

Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper then dust with flour.  Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in the pan over medium and saute the chicken until cooked and nicely browned.  (mine took about 4 minutes a side)  Remove the chicken from the pan and add the onion and saute it.  All the while use the onion and the steam coming off it to try and scrape up anything on the bottom of the pan.  When they are nice and soft (mine took about 5 minutes) add the chicken stock and really show the brown bits on the bottom of the pan who's boss.  Scrape with a spatula or wooden spoon or you impalement of choice.  Continue to cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the remaining liquid is starting to look thicker.  Return the chicken to the pan and coat.  Add the remaining butter and splash of sherry and stir, off heat, until butter melts.  Taste sauce and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. 

As for the mashed, get ricer for the potatoes.  You just push them through and give a quick stir and you have the smoothest, most amazing mashed potatoes.  (oh and yes cream and butter, salt and pepper)  For the broccoli, I used a peeler on the stems to get rid of the woody out side part, sliced the stems about 3/4 of an inch thick and but the florets in to large bunches.  But the stems in to a pot of boiling, salted water, and cooked 1 minute, added the florets and cooked them for almost a full minute.  They should turn bright green.  Drain and eat:)

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