julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight

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“Ooh, those lovely roasted, buttery French chickens. They were so good and chickeny!” – Julia Child

With all the excitement of the Super Bowl over the weekend, and my desire to laze around on the couch and do nothing but play hidden picture games on my computer, I didn’t make it out to the grocery store. So when dinnertime rolled around Monday night, I crossed my fingers that I had something in the freezer to work with. I found two chicken breasts and some sliced mushrooms in my crisper drawer…we were saved! I flipped through MTAOFC to see if the ingredients I had lying around my kitchen would work for any of Julia’s recipes. It just so happened that I had all the fixin’s for her Supremes de Volaille a Blanc (breast of chicken with cream) and Champignons Sautes a la Bordelaise (mushrooms sauteed with shallots, garlic and herbs). Add a side of steamed peas, and we were in business! 

Chicken covered with wax paper... or is it waxed paper? Meh, whatever.

I’d say total time to make this meal, from prep time to cook time, was around 30 minutes. I couldn’t believe how fast and easy this was, and how good it tasted. I started by preheating the oven to 400 degrees and, while butter heated in an oven-proof pan on the stove, I sprinkled the two thawed chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice and a little salt and pepper. With a pair of tongs, I rolled the chicken around in the butter in the pan, which instantly seared the outside, and covered the chicken with a piece of buttered wax paper and a lid. I set the chicken in the oven for just under 10 minutes, which Julia claimed would be enough time to cook the chicken fully. I didn’t believe her. When we bake chicken, we usually put it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. There was no way it would be done in less than 10! 

Don't these mushrooms look good??

In the meantime, I tossed pre-sliced mushrooms (leftover from a previous recipe) in a pan with butter and oil and sautéed them to a light brown. Then I added minced shallots and garlic, and tossed in a couple tablespoons of bread crumbs. I cooked the mushrooms a little longer, and then they were done. 

It was about this time that I pulled the chicken out of the oven, and tested it with a knife and fork. To my surprise, the meat wasn’t pink at all – it was cooked all the way through, and was tender and juicy. I couldn’t believe it. Julia wins again. I removed the chicken breasts to a plate and added a quarter cup each of beef stock and Madeira to the juices in the pan, bringing everything to a boil. When it became a light syrup, I added a half-cup of cream and watched the sauce slowly thicken. I let it boil for a couple of minutes and then it too was ready. 

Cream sauce in the works...

I served a piece of chicken topped with a spoonful of the light cream sauce, as well as a small helping of mushrooms and steamed peas (which I made at the last minute). Considering I hadn’t put a lot of planning into this meal, it looked especially good. But it tasted even better. The chicken was terrific. There was a slight hint of tanginess from the lemon juice, but the light creamy sauce took the edge off. The meat was perfect, cooked without losing its juiciness. I liked the mushrooms, too – the bread crumbs gave them an added light crispy crust that was a nice change from the typical soggy (albeit delicious) sautéed mushrooms. Even Ben ate all of his, which is a true testament to Julia’s method. 

Ta-daa!! I'm a kitchen hero! (At least, in my house.)

I have to admit, I didn’t have very high expectations of this meal, and so I was more than pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out. This method of cooking chicken definitely beats my old routine, and whether I make a Julia chicken or not, I plan to stick to this way of preparing poultry. It’s fast, it’s delicious, and it’s easy (it only uses one pan, so the clean-up is a snap!). 

Feel like chicken tonight? Shake your tail feather and follow Julia’s recipe – you’ll be glad you did! 

Happy cooking!
– Jessica

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