Monday, July 14, 2014

Bittman's Way With Chicken

I trust Mark Bittman.
When I have a recipe question or am looking for the proper technique for a dish I turn to NY Times columnist and the man who has been called the America's best home cook, Mark Bittman. He is an authority. Not the chef expert high and mighty expensive ingredient and multiple steps kind. Or the ready in 30 minutes overly cheerful open a can of this or that pour in the cream as long as it tastes good variety. He is reasonable and practical and thinks of cooking as not just an enjoyable pursuit (not an obsession) but as a necessary life skill. Bittman's recipes probably won't impress your most important worldly guests (some might though), but they will guide you through the day in and day out necessity of making healthy, quality food from scratch at home -- and teach you to improvise along the way. For years I have been recommending his "How To Cook Everything" to anyone who tells me they want to learn to cook.
Today I just couldn't think of another way to make a chicken breast. I knew I didn't want to use the oven, and I didn't want to bother with bread crumbs. I turned to Bittman and found a perfectly easy method I hadn't tried before. I took boneless skinless chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper, and dredged them in plain flour. The floured pieces went into a skillet where I melted a combination of butter and olive oil and cooked for about 4 minutes on a side. As the meat was cooking, after about 2 minutes I rotated each piece to bring the thicker part into the hottest part of the pan and keep the slightly thinner part from overcooking. So simple but the perfect solution to the age old problem of dry chicken. After the chicken was crisp and golden brown on the outside I let it rest on a platter covered with tin foil (instead of in a 200ยบ oven as Bittman suggested) while I made the sauce. I poured about 1/4 cup of white wine into the pan and let it bubble as I scraped up the brown bits left from cooking the chicken. When the wine was reduced by about 1/2 I added in 1/4 cup of water (that could have been stock) and let the mixture cook down again. As a finishing touch off the heat I added 1 TB of butter, chipped parsley and sage, and the juice of half a lemon.
Chicken and pan sauce. Real food, real simple. With steamed potatoes and green beans, dinner in less that 15 minutes.

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