Monday, 7 November 2011

The tyranny of chicken

Everybody loves chicken, right? Because it's mild-tasting? Can be subjected to myriad different treatments and cooking methods? Takes on the flavour of the ingredients it's paired with really well?

Whatever the reason, it has become one of the things my children will generally eat fairly reliably (oh, I wish I hadn't just written that...) so we eat it at least once a week and I'm always keen to try something new to do with it. This idea came from the marvellous Epicurious, which I've been a huge fan of for years (I have printouts in my moth-eaten, sticky, mouldering ideas folders that date back to 2001! That's like the Jurassic!) and I'm sharing it with you because a) everybody loved it and b) it's the kind of amazingly quick, easy recipe that can be whipped up in about 15 minutes, the time it takes to set the table and steam some cous cous. And re-heat some roast potatoes for the cous cous-hater.

The recipe calls for chicken breasts, and I know it's completely bonkers to spend the same amount (or more!) on a couple of chicken breasts as you could spend on an entire chicken. After all, the whole bird would yield an extra meal, plus lovely bones for turning into stock and/or soup. Or that's the theory, anyway. What often happens is that a buildup of spare chicken parts and bones develops that threatens to take up the entire (not large) capacity of my freezer until they actually get turned into said stock which itself then has to be either used up or frozen... it can all get a bit overwhelming. So sometimes I succumb to the temptation and just ask the butcher for the easy option.

Chicken with easy tomato and herb sauce

50g butter
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
1 plump garlic clove, crushed
salt and pepper
dash of olive oil
4 chicken breasts
a punnet of ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved, depending on size
chopped parsley, to serve*

Mash the butter with the smoked paprika, herbs, garlic and salt and pepper, then melt half of it in a frying pan with a dash of olive oil. When it has stopped sizzling, place the chicken breasts in the pan and cook until both sides are golden and the chicken almost cooked. Remove the chicken to a warm plate and cover with foil. Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan juices and saute until they start to burst and become liquid, then stir the rest of the butter into the sauce. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, put a lid on it and turn the heat right down while you're getting some accompaniments together (the aforementioned cous cous works well, or rice, or buttery new potatoes - plus whatever green vegetables your young people will tolerate). Sprinkle some parsley to serve (*obviously, only if you're feeling fancy and happen to have some lying around!).

Family-friendliness rating: The children LOVE this. They insist on having the sauce on the side (is this because they are militant food separatists, though, or because they think they get MORE that way?)

Cleanup rating: Excellent. One pan. Gotta love it.

Can you freeze it? No - this is a great thing to do with any frozen chicken breasts you happened to buy because they were on special offer, though. Not that they often are on special offer.

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