Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chicken with Provencal Sauce

I lived in New Jersey for six years.  While I was living there, when I wasn't ordering take-out, I was attempting to improve my cooking skills to make me more desirable to a future mate.  I even joined an online recipe swap and thru that, a dinner group.  While the dinner group didn't exactly work out (the other ladies in the group were on a far more advanced level than I), I continued to try and master dishes in the privacy of my own home.  My then-boyfriend happily played the part of guinea pig as a home-cooked meal was very rare in our house.  There was one recipe that I continually tried to perfect.  I'm not sure if it was because I knew I could cook it successfully, even if it didn't turn out exactly the way the recipe described it, or because Herbes de Provence ain't cheap and I was determined to finish the bottle, but when I made chicken, this is what I made.

Fast forward a few years.  I've watched a lot more Food Network cooking shows.  I know more things now.  I also have my own personal chef, Schmambs, who has also taught me a thing or two.  The other day, while in the grocery store, Schmambs asks me what she should make for dinner that week.  I suggested tacos.  She vetoed.  I suggested key lime pie.  She told me that wasn't a dinner food.  I got distracted and started talking about carrots.  Distraction is a good thing.  Next thing I knew, I blurted out that I would cook something.  "You??  What are you going to cook??", Schmambs scoffed.  "Chicken with Provencal sauce!"  After a bit more teasing, it was decided that I would give Schmambs a break from dinner and I would cook for us.  Pretty much one of the only things I know how to cook.  And not even that well.  This was our adventure.

The first step would be to trim the chicken breasts to make sure you get rid of the extra flab & fat.  Since these were regular sized breasts, the recipe required the meat be pounded to a ½ inch thickness.  I used to bypass that step by buying the thin sliced chicken breasts.  Having experienced the meat mallet and the awesomeness of being able to whack meat with no boundaries, I don't think I'll ever bypass this step again.

After your chicken breasts have been smooshed enough, season them evenly with salt and pepper.  As you can see, some of the chicken breasts ended up much bigger than others.  Looks like that's a skill I still have to work on perfecting.  

Once the chicken breasts are seasoned, toss them in a non-stick skillet with some olive oil.  Our skillet could only fit three pieces at a time.  And because I was unsuccessful at getting them thin enough, we had to throw the cover over the skillet to ensure that each breast would be cooked thoroughly and safe for consumption.  After we finished cooking the chicken, we threw them in the oven to keep them warm while we made the sauce.

Now, the sauce has always given me problems.  No matter how many times I followed the recipe, the sauce always came out very runny and very broth-like.  As mentioned before, I have watched a lot more Food Network shows since I lived in New Jersey.  And I now know what a roux is and how it can help with whatever dish you might be making.  Schmambs and I have used it for Baked Mac & Cheese in the past.  As an idea on how to make the sauce thicker, we decided to try a roux and make the sauce a little differently than I had previously.  

The recipe says to cook a clove of minced garlic in the skillet before adding the chicken broth and Herbes de Provence.  We cheated and used pre-minced garlic from a jar.  After the garlic cooked for a minute, we added the butter (typically added into the sauce as the last step), and flour to make a garlic roux.  While we didn't really know the ratios, Schmambs just kept sprinkling flour into the skillet until it became a paste-like consistency. When the roux was finished, we added chicken boullion cubes and 2 cups of water and the Herbes de Provence.  We doubled the sauce measurements because I always felt like there wasn't enough when I made it.  We wanted to make sure everyone had enough.  Better to be over than under, I always say!

The sauce turned out to be a huge success.  After bringing the sauce to a boil and making sure the roux was mixed in completely, the sauce seemed to thicken as we continued to let it cook.  It had the consistency of an alfredo sauce and twice the flavor.  I would highly recommend trying the thicker version as it makes it feel like you are enjoying an accompanying sauce rather than having chicken rice soup on a plate.  We decided to pair the chicken on top of rice with a side of boiled spinach.  Makes for a very delicious meal!

Chicken with Provencal Sauce
adapted from the recipe by Lyn Corsale

* 4  - 6 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
* ¼ tsp salt
* ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
* 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
* 1 garlic clove minced
* 1 cup fat free, low sodium chicken broth
* 1 ½ tsp dried herbes de Provence
* 1 tsp butter
* 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
* 2 tsp flour
* fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy duty plastic wrap, pound to ½ inch thickness using a meat mallet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add chicken, cook 6 minutes on each side or until done.  Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.  You can place heat your oven to 200 degrees, if desired.  Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute stirring constantly.  Scrape pan to loosen browned bits.  Add butter to skillet and wait until butter has melted.  Sprinkle in flour until mixture is a paste consistency.  Add broth and herbes de Provence and bring to a boil.  Cook until broth mixture begins to thicken (about 3-5 minutes).  Remove from heat and add lemon juice.  Serve sauce over chicken.  Garnish with thyme sprigs in desired.

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