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.
Barely dusted with flour
Oil and butter
Poached and sliced
Breast of Chicken Cockaigne
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Yes, I’m calling it soup and my husband will just have to deal with it. I’ll make him some garlic bread to dredge in it.
I’m starting with packaged chicken stock, but cooking the chicken in that stock for a double punch of chicken flavor, and I’m not removing the skin from the chicken, because —chicken fat! You can’t overestimate the importance of chicken fat in your soup for flavor. Then, I’m using a combination of brown basmati and wild rices, cooked in the stock, so they soak up all that flavor and do some thickening.
I used 3 chicken thighs, bone-in skin-on, and 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. While it was a lot of meat, it was just fine for the 2+ quarts of soup.
Tender heart of celery
Stage 1 of stock
Soup and garlic bread
Creamy Chicken Rice Soup
Stock and chicken:
3 large chicken thighs, with skin and bones, browned in 1 tablespoon bacon fat
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large carrot, cut in large chunks
1 large yellow onion, with skin, cut in half
top of large celery bunch, about three inches, including leaves
2 quarts chicken stock, packaged or homemade
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- Brown chicken thighs in 1 tablespoon bacon fat in large stock pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Remove chicken breasts and continue to simmer the thighs in the stock, covered, for another 30 minutes.
- Remove thighs. Strain stock and return to pot.
- Pull the chicken into rough shreds or cut uniformly while the rice cooks.
1 cup brown basmati rice
1/4 cup wild rice
tender heart of celery bunch (about 1 1/2 cups), including leaves, thinly sliced
3-4 carrots, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
about 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- Bring strained stock to boil and stir in rices and vegetables.
- Reduce to simmer, cooking. covered, for about 45 minutes or until done.
pulled chicken (about 4 cups)
2 cups heavy cream
Optional: about 1 cup frozen corn
salt & pepper to taste
- Add chicken to simmering stock; return to simmer.
- Add cream, salt & pepper to taste, and corn, if using. Return to simmer, cooking until heated through, especially if you added frozen corn.
- If you prefer a thicker gravy, here are some tips from The Kitchn on ways to thicken soup: http://www.thekitchn.com/soups-on-7-ways-to-make-any-so-106057
No, it’s the dead of winter and not peak avocado time, but I picked up some ready-made guacamole for last weekend’s fish tacos, and only used one of the packages. It’s only 14° F outside today, so a bowl of warm creamy pasta seems like the right dish to curl up with for dinner. Even though the guacamole contains some traditional Mexican seasonings, like garlic and jalapeno peppers, it’s labeled as mild and will not turn the pasta into a Mexican pasta dish, if there is such a thing. Sour cream, another typical accompaniment to guacamole, some chopped tomatoes, and queso fresco will round out the pasta, which, in the end, is just a creamy warm past that no one would suspect has some Mexican connections.
I’m also, for a different texture in the final dish, deep frying the chicken cubes in a cornstarch coating.
Chicken and cornstarch
Deep frying chicken
Green and creamy
With crumbled queso fresco
Chicken and Creamy Avocado Pasta
This dish goes together quickly, and would be even easier if you already have some cooked chicken to add to the sauce.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cubed
1/3-1/2 cup of cornstarch, for coating chicken
salt & pepper to taste
canola oil, or your favorite oil for frying
1 cup prepared, mild guacamole—if using fresh avocado, you might want to season with garlic and other seasonings
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed or 1/2 cup fresh diced tomatoes
queso fresco cheese, crumbled
1/2 lb whole wheat farfalle pasta
Preparing the chicken:
- If frying the chicken, coat the cubes well with cornstarch and set aside. When ready to fry, add more cornstarch, if needed. The chicken should be well coated and dry.
- Fry in about 2 inches of oil at 350° for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown, but not overcooked. Fry in batches, letting the oil come back to temperature between batches. I think I had about four batches.
- Set chicken aside to drain on paper towels, until ready to add to pasta.
Preparing the pasta and sauce:
- Boil the pasta of your choice as directed on package. I used a whole wheat pasta because we like the nutty taste, and because it has a lower glycemic index.
- In a large saute pan, combine guacamole, sour cream, and chicken stock. There is no need to thicken this sauce! Heat over low heat until it begins to bubble.
- Toss in pasta, fried chicken cubes, and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine and heat through for 1-2 minutes. Notice that I not only drained, but rinsed my canned tomatoes, because I didn’t want a pink sauce, or maybe red and green would make a brown sauce–yuk.
- Serve in bowls, garnished with crumbled cheese.
Frying the chicken was a nice choice that added an interesting texture and flavor to the dish. It would be interesting with some shredded, poached chicken as well.
Chicken paillard coated with almond flour, that is. I often just pound the chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and throw them on the grill, and they are terrific that way, but flouring before frying adds nice browning and another layer of flavor. Today, I’m trying almond flour instead of all-purpose flour. I had wanted to try coconut flour, but couldn’t find any in my local store.
Here’s a video of the contemporary method of butterflying a chicken breast before pounding, but some people butterfly by cutting through one side almost to the other edge, and some people simply pound the whole breast. All these methods work, and if you accidentally cut through too far, just work with the pieces you get. The point is to have meat of all the same thickness that cooks very quickly. Keep trying, though, until you can get the lovely large pieces.
The video chef is right that chicken breasts are getting bigger and bigger, so I didn’t choose the method of simply pounding the whole breast. That would take a lot of pounding, and as it was, things fell off shelves from all my pounding. If you find a package of small chicken breasts, however, I do recommend that method rather than butterflying. I had three large ones; I cut one from one side to almost the other, and I did the remaining two using the method in the video. I did not remove the tender, but included it in the paillard, adding to their final size. As you can see in my photos, I put a hole in one, but otherwise, they came out pretty well. I cut them in half before dredging in the almond flour, just to make them easier to cook and turn in the large frying pan.
Nutty Chicken Paillard
boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you can use ones with skin on, if you can find them)
1/2 cup almond flour per breast
salt & pepper
olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
- Butterfly large breasts, if desired. Place breasts between plastic wrap or in large unsealed plastic bags. Pound breasts to an even thickness of about 1/4-1/2 inch with a tenderizing mallet or even a handy kitchen object like a coffee mug with a flat bottom.
- Season paillards with salt and pepper, then dredge in almond flour.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. You are not deep frying the chicken, so you don’t need an amount of oil that comes over the tops. You can add more oil to the pan as needed, and can probably only cook one at a time.
- Cook each paillard for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until browned. It’s hard to get a thermometer in thin pieces of meat, so I use the test of pressing on the thickest parts until there is little resistance, the same method used to test steaks (see the method here: http://www.thecitycook.com/cooking/advice/general/000024). Remove to platter and cover with foil while you cook the rest.
They were really tasty and worth trying.