It’s been too long since I cooked in a restaurant and had to seriously multi-task in the kitchen. During a restaurant rush you have a multitude of things going on, all at a rapid pace. I used to be able to do ten things at once. I found out just how rusty I am in the kitchen recently when I was trying to get the cutting board set up, filet the chicken, find the spinach to wilt, and finish a simple pan sauce to go over the breast that I had stuffed with sweet italian chicken sausage homemade croutons, and some tender, spring asparagus spears.
As you can see by the picture, I probably did not get enough butter in the sauce, or I left a bit too much of the fat drippings in the pan, or I added a little too much chicken stock when I deglazed the pan, or just didn’t get it off the stove before the butter broke down. Lots can cause a sauce to go south. Breaking a sauce is a first-term culinary-school blunder. I should know better. I took that class a long time ago. Breakage never happened to me while whipping up pan sauces in a restaurant, but it’s happened to me two out of the last three times I’ve done it here at home.
You can see the little oily bubbles at the bottom right of the picture. I blame my lack of pre preparation for my lousy excuse of a sauce. My mise (the pre-prepared ingredients that make up a finished dish) sucks at home. I know what I need to do if I want a no-hassle cooking experience but I get distracted by the movie on the television, or the phone. I’m glad Gordon Ramsey wasn’t working the pass in my kitchen tonight. He would have been disappointed. (I reference Gordon because the of Hell’s Kitchen). How those people submit to such horrible treatment is beyond me. I’d walk out after the first fifteen minutes!
But, back to my mise…. or lack thereof. I guess what I am trying to tell you is that if you have the cutting board ready, and the spinach located, and the knife sharpened, you will be able to concentrate on your sauce and not end up with oily bubbles that are horribly embarrassing to someone who is a veteran of rushes that would scare some cooks out of the kitchen. This is a good case for doing what I say not what I did. Maybe I just need a bunch of people here, ordering fourteen things at once, for me to get it right. Or maybe it is as simple as having all the ingredients ready and waiting to be used at the proper time. Dinner anyone?
Stuffed Chicken Breast
(serves two as a main course)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. butter
1 whole breast (skin on and off the bone)
1/2 lb. sweet italian sausage (bulk or with casings removed)
1/3 c. coarse bread crumbs (I make crutons and then grind them)
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
6 spears medium sized asparagus
1 c. chicken stock
Pan drippings drained of most of the oil and fat
2 TBS butter
1/2 tsp finely chopped shallots
salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the chicken for stuffing you need to remove the tenders (those little fillets that are about two fingers wide) from the larger section of breast meat and then pound the breast to about an 1/8” in thickness. Mix the sausage with the bread crumbs, herbs, and mound it up in the middle of the breast. Then, put the raw asparagus spears on top of the sausage all nice and neat and bring each side to the middle to make a roll. You can close it with a tooth pick if you want to. Don’t forget to season it with salt and pepper.
Heat an oven proof skillet (if you have one) until the pan is hot; a medium high burner works well. Add the oil and butter to the pan. Sear the breast, skin side down, for about four minutes until there is a nice caramelization on it. Turn it over and then put the pan in a 400 degree oven. If you don’t have an oven-proof skillet, transfer the chicken to something else at this point. If you want extra crispy skin, baste with the juices in the pan about ten minutes after you put it in the oven. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer after another 15 minutes. It will be done when it is 145 degrees in the middle. When you take it out of the oven, let it rest, uncovered, while you make the sauce. That way the juices from the breast can be re-absorbed back into the meat.
After cooking the chicken, I drain most of the fat out of the pan and keep all the crusty brown bits. If you’ve transfered the breast to something besides the skillet you browned the chicken in, return some of the juices and the bits from the bottom of the pan back into the skillet. Heat to medium high, then add a cup of chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Let that reduce by about half. You can add shallots or herbs at this point if you’d like. Some say tarragon is good, but I prefer fresh thyme. Let the herbs or shallots sizzle for a minute or two, then add about two tablespoons of unsalted butter to the pan and watch it like a hawk. The butter will melt and thicken the sauce, but if left too long it will turn to an oily goo. Once it’s the right consistency, taste it for seasoning (salt and pepper) and take it off the heat. Cut the breast into slices (no rules here except your own tastes), place them on the plate, and spoon some of the sauce over the breast. This recipe is killer good, and pretty easy. It’s great served with the saute of spinach or some steamed vegetables. Maybe some simple mashers if you need that extra starch.