I have had a lot of company lately. We have eaten well with everyone pitching in to help. But I haven’t thought to do a dish such as this. This is one of those meals that you would serve at a dinner party like we used to have. I am speaking for myself here. At the lake we do not have a formal dining room. We either eat on the screened in porch overlooking the lake or in the kitchen. But this is also the kind of dish that I still like to make when time permits. The chicken is not really complicated or time comsuming. It can actually be prepared ahead of time and cooked when you are ready. So no more excuses. I am adding this to my list of company dishes.
The chicken is elegant with a savory stuffing under the skin. I asked the butcher to bone the chicken breasts for me since it is impossible to find boneless breasts with the skin on. The fillet strip is ground up in the food processor with spinach, cream, fennel seeds, lemon zest, and nutmeg to make the stuffing. A spirited sauce is made with Madeira and chicken broth.
With the chicken I served Saffron Rice Timbales and Provencal Green Beans. The two of us enjoyed it immensely. Maybe next time I will actually share it with company.
COMPANY CHICKEN ( Gourmet Magazine 1986)
For the stuffed chicken:
4 chicken breasts, boned but not skinned
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed ice
3 tablespoons chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup firmly packed cooked, squeezed, and chopped spinach (about 1/2 pound fresh)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the sauce:
1/2 cup Madeira
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon arrowroot dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
Arrange the chicken breasts skin side down on a cutting board, making sure the skin is evenly stretched over the breasts, and remove the fillet strip from each breast discarding the white tendon. In a food processor grind the fillets. Add the ice, blend the mixture until the ice is absorbed, and with the motor running add the cream. Add the spinach, the salt, the fennel seeds, the zest, the nutmeg, and the pepper and blend the filling well, scraping down the sides. Turn the breasts skin side up and beginning at the pointed end pull the skin back carefully, leaving the thin trasparent membranes attached along a long side and leaving the skin attached at the opposite end. Spread 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling evely over each breast, smoothing it, and stretch the skin over the filling to cover it. Chill the chicken, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for 1 hour. The chicken may be prepared up to this point 24 hours in advance and kept covered and chilled. In a large ovenproof skillet heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, add the chicken, skin side down, and season it with salt and pepper. Saute the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown, turn it skin side up, and bake it, covered, in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Mine took longer because the breasts were large. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it stand, covered loosely with foil, for 5 minutes.
Make the sauce while the chicken is standing: Pour off the fat from the skillet, add the Madeira, and boil it, scraping up the brown bits, until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Add the broth and boil the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir the arrowroot mixture, add it to the skillet, whisking, and simmer the sauce, whisking for 1 minute.
Holding a knife at a 45 degree angle slice the chicken crosswise and arrange the slices, overlapping them slightly, on a platter. Spoon some of the sauce around the chicken and serve the remaining sauce separately. Serves 4.
SAFFRON RICE TIMBALES (Gourmet Magazine 1986)
1/3 cup minced onion
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
2/3 cup long-grain rice
1 1/4 cups canned chicken broth
3 tablespoons drained and finely chopped pimiento
In a small saucepan cook the onion in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is softened, add the saffron and the rice, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the rice is coated well with the butter. Add the broth, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the rice, covered, for 18 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the pimiento, remove the pan from the heat, and let the rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Pack the rice into 4 buttered 1/2-cup timbale molds (or small ramekins) and invert the timbales onto heated plates. Serves 4.
PROVENCAL GREEN BEANS (Provence the Beautiful Cookbook)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound small tender green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of dried bread crumbs
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and when they begin to sizzle and color, add the beans. Cook, tossing repeatedly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the crumbs and toss or stir with a wooden spoon only until the crumbs are crisp and begin to color. Serve.