Breast of Chicken Cockaigne

Another recipe from my old Joy of Cooking (1967), “Breast of Chicken Cockaigne” uses a small amount of both oil and butter in a quick simmer, then relies on a short rest in a covered pan to finish the cooking. If nothing else, it reminds cooks that a chicken breast is best when not overcooked. Why Cockaigne? Here’s what the authors say about it in the forward to the cookbook:

…in response to many requests from users of “The Joy” who ask “What are your favorites?,” we have added to some of our recipes the word “Cockaigne,” which signified in medieval times “a mythical land of peace and plenty,” and also happens to be the name of our country home.

The method is really a form of poaching in fat, with enough moisture created in the covered pan to keep the meat from browning and to keep the meat extra moist. If you love poached chicken, you must really try this one instead of the one where chicken is immersed in water. The one item missing from this method is seasoning, which I guess is not a mistake. Just be sure to use or offer seasoning on serving. I’m using the chicken in a pasta salad that you can see in the next post.

Breast of Chicken Cockaigne

  • Servings: 1 breast per person
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts—mine weighed about 1/2 lb each

all purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil)

Note: the recipe calls for 1/2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil for each breast.

  1. Bring the butter and oil to “the point of fragrance” in a large skillet. The recipe does not suggest the level of heat to use, but since you are not supposed to let the meat brown, I used medium heat on my gas stove. I put the chicken in when the butter started to foam, but before it sizzled.
  2. While the fats are heating, pat the breasts dry, then lightly flour. I took the term “dust” to heart and barely floured the breasts—just enough to keep them dry. I let them sit on paper towels until the fats were ready.
  3. Place the chicken in the pan and move it around so the flour does not stick, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes. On my burner, low is not a true simmer, but is a little higher than that. Mostly, you want to occasionally move the chicken so it doesn’t stick or brown, but not so often that you are releasing too much of the built up steam. I turned the breasts over every five minutes and they never browned.
  4. Leaving the cover on, turn off the heat or move off the burner on an electric stove, and let sit in the covered pan for another 10 minutes.
  5. Just for you, I tested the breasts with a thermometer, because I knew you wouldn’t believe me, and the breasts were at 160° after the final resting.

If you have some of the really large breasts being sold these days, increase the times as needed.

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