I hate excuses, so I won't bother offering any for the delay in posting. I'm trying to be better, but I can't make any guarantees over the next two months or so. I am behind in posting at least two others dishes - they are completed (oxtail and short ribs - they were good and great, in that order) but I have not found the time to post. Maybe I can make headway this weekend.
Let's get back on task - I made the sauteed chicken breasts with tarragon sauce last night - check it out:
The breasts are rubbed with a half curry/half paprika mixture you see on the left in the photo below and they are placed in the refrigerator to marinate for two hours.
Keller suggests a number of side dishes with the chicken, I wanted something hearty to go along with the two feet of snow that just fell outside, so I selected the garlic mashed potatoes.
A quick aside - I have to spell check every time I spell the word potatoes thanks to Dan Quayle. This one incident singlehandedly makes me anxious every time I spell it.
The recipe calls for potatoes (anxiety) that are two inches in diameter - mine were about four inches in diameter, so I had to cut them in half to cook in a reasonable amount of time. Keller says to boil them gently as to disintegrate the outer layer - since I exposed the flesh by cutting them int eh fist place, I tried to monitor the boil a little more closely to keep the starch from getting too beat up. The potatoes were simmered for about 20 minutes before they were drained and allowed to dry - then peeled and pureed. Keller notes that the potatoes, once cooked and pureed, can sit at room temperature for a number of hours; thus, I was able to have the potatoes nearly complete while waiting for the chicken to finish marinating.
Included in the puree is butter and garlic confit. The garlic confit is slowly simmered in oil for 40 or so minutes until the garlic is meltingly tender. You can see that in action (inaction?) here.
I pureed the potatoes in three batches through my food mill. You will notice that the peeled potatoes are in smaller pieces - my food mill sometimes goes on strike from working so I had to make them nice and small so my mill wouldn't complain and revolt. THe butter and garlic confit are passed through the mill as well.
The resulting texture is uniform and quite smooth but not gluey. The mill does not overwork the potatoes and the medium-sized blade still leaves just enough texture.
Two Hours Later...
Here is the mise for the pan sauce - from the top: white wine (sauvignon blanc), chicken stock (homemade using the Ruhlman method), tarragon, minced shallot.
Chicken is taken out of the fridge, pounded to a uniform thickness (about 1/4") and salted.
Once browned, the chicken is flipped for a kiss of heat on the other side then held in a 200 deg. oven. Look at the beautiful color the spices give the chicken - and the smell at this point? Oh my.
Excess oil now drained from the pan, it's sauce time. The shallots are softened with a little butter, then the wine is added and allowed to reduce followed by the stock. The fresh herbs are added at the end as are a few tablespoons of butter to enrich the sauce.
The potatoes were finished by whipping in warm cream over a low flame to heat everything thoroughly. I didn't have chives (probably would have been a bit better) but I did have green onion to finish the dish:
At first thought I anticipated the curry would overpower the dish but I was wrong. The curry offers a nice aromatic spice note to the chicken that is complemented by the paprika. I was particularly impressed by the way the flavors all work so well together; I thought the curry and tarragon would be competing flavors but they were rather complementary. This is most certainly a dish that will be added to the rotation - the preparation was very, very simple; the flavors were complex and interesting and the dish was not heavy or overpowering. This dish is also versatile - depending on the side dish, this could be a great meal for any season. I might grow some tarragon in the garden this year to motivate me to make this dish again and again.
I also think this dish is a nice introduction to the flavor of curry. I happen to love curry in almost any form but I have a number of friends that steer clear of the stuff. My guess is that they don't really know whether or not they like curry - they just think they won't like it and thus avoid it. The curry in this dish is a bit of a secret or surprise ingredient. The tarragon sits first chair, but the aroma and flavor of the chicken adds an additional component to the taste. I also think the spices give the dish a beautiful presentation. The chicken is strikingly beautiful against the fresh green tarragon in the sauce.
Beyond all the flavorful reasons to make this, it is quick and easy. The chicken takes less than five minutes to cook, the sauce about five minutes and the potatoes can be pureed in advance. This may have been the easiest dish that I have made thus far and it is certainly not short on taste.
Chicken from Wegmans
Spices from The Spice House
Potatoes, shallot, green onion from Wegmans