Monday, December 17, 2012

Chicken with Fresh Morel Mushrooms

Chicken with Fresh Morel Mushrooms
Chicken with Fresh Morel Mushrooms, Pine Nut Polenta and Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

Here in Michigan, foraging for Morel Mushrooms can be all consuming for fans of this wild prize. A warm March gets the blood lust going and by April and mid-to-late May, talk of the hunt for the curly headed little marvels can rival even deer hunting fever. The Morel, like its snooty, upper-crust cousin the Truffle, has an earthy taste that doesn’t suit every palette. But since the Morel presents itself to the world by standing tall where it grows and not requiring trained pigs to locate it, they do give more folks the opportunity to learn to love them.

Morels are hearty and will stand up to a variety of cooking techniques. But my favorite method of introducing Morels to a dish begins with a quick sauté to release their woodland flavor and aroma before adding to the dish. Morels also lose very little of their unique taste dried for later use when fresh are not available.

Chicken with Fresh Morel Mushrooms    
Serves: 4     Total Time: 1 Hour


4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
• Kosher Salt
• Fresh Ground Black Pepper
• All Purpose Flour
• 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
• 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
• 2 Large Shallots, chopped
• 4 Ounces Fresh Morels, cleaned, patted dry, trimmed and roughly chopped
• 2 Garlic Cloves, mashed into paste with ½ Teaspoon of Table Salt
• 1 Cup Madeira
• 1 Cup Sour Cream
• 1 Cup Whipping Cream
• 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
• Kosher Salt
• Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Preparation Steps

Step 1. Preheat oven to 375°F

Step 2. Remove the “tender” or “finger” from the Chicken Breasts and save for a future meal. Pound each Chicken Breast to break down the tissue and to flatten only to about ½” thickness.

Step 3. Season the Chicken with Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper and set aside.

Step 4. Melt 2 tablespoons of the Butter and 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.

Step 5. Dust the seasoned Chicken lightly with All Purpose Flour and shake off the excess. Immediately add the Chicken to the hot fat and cook until browned on both sides – about 4 or 5 minutes per side.

Step 6. Remove the Chicken to an ovenproof casserole and melt another 2 tablespoons of Butter in the sauté pan. Raise the heat to medium and add the Shallots, Morels and Garlic and cook for 2 minutes while gently stirring constantly to prevent the Garlic from burning.

Step 7. Move the pan off the flame, add the Madeira and stir, scraping the bottom to deglaze. Return the pan to the flame and increase the heat to medium-high, stirring to reduce the liquid by half; this should take about 2 or 3 minutes.

Step 8. Whisk in the Sour Cream, Whipping Cream, Lemon Juice, and Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste.

Step 9. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and cook until it begins to thicken, about 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Step 10. Pour the thickened sauce over the browned Chicken Breasts in the casserole and bake, uncovered for 10 or 12 minutes to make sure the Chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten

Tips and Trending

Morel Mushroom
A Morel Mushroom in the wild
~ If fresh Morels aren’t available, substitute 1 ounce of dried Morels and reconstitute them by pouring 3 cups of boiling water over them and steeping 30 minutes. Discard the soaking liquid and pat the Morels dry before using them.

~ When you pound the Chicken Breasts, the goal is to make each one approximately the same thickness and to break the tissue down only slightly. This reduces the cooking time and assures that each breast cooks the same in the sauté / simmer method above.

~ Mashing Garlic is a technique that uses the whole clove without introducing Garlic bits or chunks that even mincing produces. Using the side of a wide butcher knife, smash the clove(s) to loosen and remove the skin. Trim off the tough stem end of the skinned clove(s) and add the amount of salt as directed in the recipe. Holding the knife with the sharp edge away from you, press down to further flatten the clove and pull the knife toward you, mashing the garlic and salt together as you pull. Repeat until the garlic and salt form a paste. The Salt will capture the oils released by the garlic so that they too are added to your recipe and not left on the cutting board. Use this technique instead of a garlic press, whenever you would be adding salt to your recipe.

~ The primary components of this dish really stand out due to the flavor layering you accomplish by following the methodology above and the fact that the only seasonings used are Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper. Often times, boneless/skinless Chicken can be little more than a transport mechanism for whatever sauce in which it’s prepared – but if you can find truly fresh, not previously frozen breasts, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing, tender and flavorful Chicken.

~ Serve this with Polenta with Toasted Pine Nuts to add a rich and flavorful side.

~ Experiment with substituting other meats in this dish – bone-in veal chops will cook perfectly without changing any timing.

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