Just about everybody from cartoon cannibals to your sainted grandma has, at one time or another, taken a bite of a new food and uttered the well-known words, “Why, this tastes just like chicken.”
The promise of the taste of chicken has been used to persuade people of all ages to try all sorts of meats (not to mention tofu). What is it about chicken that makes it OK to sample odd and mysterious ingredients in search of its flavor?
I don’t even know if there’s really a “taste” or a flavor that is synonymous with chicken. I think the main reason chicken is so universally liked and used in recipes is that it can take on a multitude of flavors. Like an artist with a blank canvas, even a “plain” cook can take some chicken pieces, season them right and cook them properly, and create a culinary masterpiece.
Being a southerner, I grew up eating fried chicken. We probably had it once a week when I was a child. My mother was a great cook, and I loved her fried chicken. But it is commonly acknowledged among my extended family members that Aunt Ruth, Mother’s sister, was the Chicken Queen.
Aunt Ruth’s fried chicken was unfailingly juicy inside and crusty outside. (Every piece crunched audibly when you bit into it, even when you ate it cold the next day.) And her chicken pies occasionally appeared in my dreams. She made up all sorts of recipes using chicken. I don’t think she ever served a bad — or even average — chicken entrée.
I sometimes fry chicken. I make chicken pies, chicken with dumplings, and chicken piccata. Chicken salad is a summertime favorite. Marinated chicken simply grilled over a hot fire is delicious. And sometimes, like my Aunt Ruth, I dream up something totally new (new to my family, anyway).
My husband isn’t as fond of chicken as I am, but I served a “made-up” chicken dish not long ago that he actually requested I make again. I could have called it “kitchen sink chicken” for the number and variety of ingredients I used.
The base of this dish is one of the culinary trinities, butter, garlic and lemon. Some of the additional ingredients can be adjusted. Try it this way the first time, then switch things around to suit your taste, or to use what is on your shelves and in your fridge. It’s as much technique as actual recipe and it’s really good. Serve with long-grain rice to hold every drop of the sauce.
Be ready to share the recipe.
3 large boneless chicken breast halves
Flour for dredging
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large fresh garlic cloves
2 tablespoons apricot balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon capers, drained
Cut chicken breasts into 1 1/2 inch pieces. In a large self-sealing bag, shake chicken and flour to completely coat chicken.
Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium low flame. Add floured chicken pieces and saute two minutes on each side to brown lightly. Crush garlic and add to pan, along with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, Marsala wine and chicken broth.
Turn heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Uncover, add capers and continue to simmer to reduce and thicken sauce slightly.
Serve with long-grain rice.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.