It’s French Week, or at least a few French themed posts for no reason other than I can. French cuisine gets a pretty bad rap in popular American culture, especially the Nouvelle Cuisine that was big in the 70s. French cuisine, especially the more rustic French cuisine, has a lot of similarities to Italian cuisine – really good quality ingredients treated to let them taste the best. The French ethos seems to have a few more steps than the Italian ethos, but the end result is the same – delicious food that is easier than you think!
We started with a whole chicken to be used in at least three different dinners. The breasts will be used in one dish, the thighs and wings in a second dish, and the scrapings of the carcass as part of a third. The carcass itself is going to be used to make chicken stock.
First up, we will focus on using the chicken breasts. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a mainstay in many people’s kitchens, even if I avoid them. Chicken thighs present much more flavor and are usually a good bit cheaper per pound. When starting from a whole chicken, however, you need a plan for the breasts. If you are also starting with a whole chicken, you will need to break it down. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, I will instead commend to you the video of Alton Brown demonstrating the deconstruction of a whole chicken through use of the “Dino Cam” (“Very Helpful”) from the Good Eats episode, Fry Hard II. Now, I did not find an official video available on Youtube so instead, I will link to Melissa Clark’s almost as good video of breaking down a chicken.
The plan is to poach chicken breasts in flavorful chicken stock and then, in true French fashion, make a sauce from the poaching liquid and some additional components. If you don’t have fully flavorful and wonderful chicken stock, you can amp up store bought stock like Arkansas Foodies showed. In the meantime, there is a really short list of ingredients.
Poached Chicken Breast with Tarragon
- 2 Skinless boneless Chicken Breasts
- 1 1/2 Cups Chicken Broth
- 3/4 Cup Dry White Wine (I used a Pinot Gris)
- ½-1Cup Whipping Cream depending on your taste and health preferences
- 3 Tbsp chopped tarragon
- 1 Tbsp butter (Optional)
- Salt & Pepper
- Put a saucier or saute pan with a good fitting lid over medium heat and add your chicken, broth, white wine, and half your tarragon.
- Make sure that the chicken is submerged in the poaching liquid – add a little more stock or wine if needed.
- Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Let the chicken poach in the simmering liquid until cooked through and moist. This depends on the thickness of your chicken breast, but expect it to take between 6 and 10 minutes.
- When your breasts are cooked through, which you can check by making a cut into the chicken to see if the juices run clear, remove them from the pan and cover with foil, or place in a warmed oven.
- Make the sauce – Strain the poaching liquid into a saucepan and increase heat to medium-high, bring the sauce to a boil and reduce by half – that is to cook off enough water that the volume is halved or to boil something to a thicker more concentrated form.
- Add the whipping cream and remaining tarragon, and reduce the heat to medium. Whisk the sauce while it reduces by half again.
- Remove the sauce from heat, (optionally monte au beurre – that is French for whisk in a pat of butter to make it extra fancy just before service), spoon the sauce over the chicken, add tarragon for garnish, and enjoy with a glass of the wine you used in the poaching liquid.
Here, we had a side of glazed root vegetables, specifically carrots and turnips, on the side. What? You want a recipe for those as well?
Glazed Root Vegetables
- 1/2lb Turnips in a large dice, or other even cutting method
- 1/2lb Carrots in a thick battonet, or other even cutting method
- 2Tbsp + 1Tbsp Butter
- 1Tbsp Sugar
- 1Tbsp Chopped Parsley
- 1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
- In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the vegetables and sugar, tossing to coat the begetables
- Add the stock, cover and simmer for ~10 minutes
- Uncover and continue to evaporate remaining stock, tossing or stirring to keep the vegetables from sticking.
- Remove from heat, add the parsley and last tablespoon of butter. Stir or toss to coat.