Monday, April 27, 2015

Quick Chicken Breasts with Bacon, Marsala, Peas, and Cream

More than a dozen years ago I read and reviewed a delightful foodie/adventure book called A Trip to the Beach. It was the true story of Melinda and Bob Blanchard who decided one day, while on vacation in Barbados (and isn't vacation the place where the most genius plans are hatched?), to sell their successful  Vermont-based food company and open up a beach bar and restaurant on the island of Anquilla. It was a delightful book to read, full of food, fun, failure, and ultimately, remarkable success. All of the while I was reading the book I wished that I could make some of the delicious sounding food described therein.

As if in answer to my prayers, three years later At Blanchard's Table: A Trip to the Beach Cookbook was published. As charming as the initial book detailing their adventure, this book contains delicious recipes, beautiful pictures, and engaging side notes on the people who work with them, as well as charming anecdotes.

This recipe is one from the cookbook that I make frequently. The wordQuick in the title is what initially drew me in, and, boy was I glad. Yes, it is quick, but it is also delicious and company worthy. You'll need Marsala, please do not substitute, but it will be a wise purchase because you will undoubtedly make this again and again.
Quick Chicken Breasts with Bacon,
Marsala, Peas, and Cream
From At Blanchard’s Table

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, 
pounded to an even 1/4–inch thickness
1 cup Marsala wine
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup frozen baby green peas, thawed 
under cool running water and drained
4 slices thick bacon, cooked and crumbled into small pieces
2 tablespoons minced parsley

Whisk together the flour, salt, and pepper, and put the mixture on a plate or in a shallow bowl for dredging.  Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Dredge the chicken in the flour on all sides, shaking off any excess.  Saute in a single layer until brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side.  If the pan does not hold all of the chicken, saute it in batches, transferring the cooked pieces to a plate as they are done.

Remove all of the chicken from the pan and add the Marsala.  Loosen the browned bits of chicken from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and cook until the Marsala is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Add the cream and simmer over medium heat until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the chicken.

Return the chicken to the pan and coat well on both sides with the sauce.  Add the peas and bacon and simmer for a minute or two so to heat through.  Taste for salt and pepper, and serve garnished with parsley.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Butterscotch Sauce

I am always looking for a way to make dessert easier. The fact is, I am not a fan of baking, so if I can top a scoop of ice cream with something decadent, that suits me just fine. When I spotted this recipe on the Food52 website I was leery. I've made caramel sauce before and it was much more involved than this appeared to be. One treads a slippery slope when making caramel sauce because while waiting for the boiling sugar to turn a caramel color (something that is subjective) the caramel can turn bitter, and both time and ingredients are wasted. So I didn't have very high hopes for this recipe.

Much to my extreme and very pleasant surprise this butterscotch sauce (that tastes more like caramel to me) is both easy and delicious. I was a bit uncomfortable with the rather sketchy directions, far preferring a finite cooking time as well as a goal temperature on a candy thermometer, but threw caution to the wind and just let things be. My butter, sugar, and corn syrup did notfroth and bubble and go bonkers. It simply melted and came to a low boil. When I added the heavy cream it did noterupt and rise up until I turned up the heat to allow for a 30-second vigorous boil. Despite these things, it still turned out beautifully. It did firm up in the fridge, but it did not get at all grainy. It was still smooth and very delicious.

 This recipe is a keeper, folks. Quick, easy, and absolutely decadent. Who could ask for more?
Butterscotch Sauce
From Phyllis Grant at Food52

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1 1/2 cups light or dark brown sugar (I used dark)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, halved, seeds scraped out
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup. Boil until sugar dissolves. This takes a few minutes. It will froth and bubble and go bonkers. Don't panic.
Add heavy cream. Stand back. The mixture will erupt and rise up. Stir in vanilla bean, vanilla bean seeds, and salt. Whisk. Bring back up to a vigorous boil for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.
Serve right away over ice cream or yogurt. Inside crepes. In between layers of cake. Or store it in the fridge for a few weeks.  Makes a little over 1 1/2 cups.

Author Notes: This recipe is from one of my mother's best friends, via her mother, via the San Francisco restaurant Trader Vic's. You can make it with either dark or light brown sugar or a combination of the two. It's great drizzled over crepes and cakes. One thing to know is that it firms up as it hits ice cream, but it softens back up in your mouth. It gets quite hard and grainy in the fridge, but low heat brings the sauce right back to life. This recipe fits perfectly into a Bonne Maman jar. It keeps for months in the fridge, but it will not last that long. – Phyllis Grant

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