Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quick Chicken Chasseur

With apologies to Madame Collins, my eighth-grade French teacher, I had no idea what a “chasseur” was before a quick bit of Internet research. Now, I not only know it means “hunter,” I also know this recipe is the most elegant entry I’ve stumbled upon so far.

A traditional French chasseur – or “hunter’s dish”  is made with chicken breasts, mushrooms and tomatoes and finished with a blaze of cognac, vermouth, white wine or sherry, depending on whose recipe you’re following. (The quick and dirty version here features sherry – specifically Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine – the good folks who printed the recipe in an unknown magazine these many years ago.)

What’s not to love, I thought, reading the directions: Crispy, flash-fried chicken breast strips cloaked in a velvety pan gravy, redolent with tarragon and thyme – a French delight! (And this was before I cracked the sherry.)

I couldn’t figure out why this recipe seemed so familiar to me – it’s not one we ate when I was growing up. Then it hit me: My husband regularly makes a dish his father created called “Chicken Capri” which features many of the same ingredients, but also pasta, capers and artichokes. Different, sure, but still easy to see the influence of the hunter.

I’m a sucker for any meal I can prepare quickly during busy weeknight mealtime. Quick Chicken Chasseur lived up to its name. Everything came together easily, with minimal prep.

As I poured the vegetable oil into my skillet and set the chicken in to bubble away merrily, I wondered why I don’t fry everything in this much oil and a coating of corn starch. The chicken strips took on a crunchy brown exterior that was soon doused in sherry and chicken broth. A few quick turns in the pan and I set it on the back burner for a speedy simmer – leaving me just enough time to rustle up the dishes I’d dirtied.

Fifteen minutes later, I spooned the chicken and sauce over (leftover) mashed potatoes, and we sat down to eat.  My daughter rubbed her tummy and cleaned her plate, my son pronounced it “deee-licious!” and my husband packed the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Having not had a traditional chasseur, I’m not at liberty to describe how this fast version may be lacking in taste – or how much time it saves you. The most glaring omission seemed to be salt – the original recipe calls for “chicken broth,” which, in my mind means the low-sodium kind I consider a staple, but which ‘80s cooks would not have reached for, if it was even an option. (See the Notes below for my remedy.) Otherwise, it is a nice entry into our weeknight repertoire. (But first I’ll have to restock the sherry.)

Though I may not have had a clue what the title meant, my childhood self was intrigued enough take a chance on the chasseur. And now, the hunter has become the hunted. I’d like to find other versions (Quick or not) of this dish. Do you make one that you find particularly yummy? Let me know.

Quick Chicken Chasseur
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut in strips
1/3 c. corn starch
¼ c. vegetable oil
½ tsp. each tarragon and ground thyme
¼ tsp. pepper
1 c. sliced scallions
2 c. chicken broth
¾ c. Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine
1 c. sliced mushrooms, fresh or canned
3 tomatoes, cut in eighths
3-4 cups hot cooked rice

Dredge chicken in corn starch. In large skillet, brown coated chicken in oil. Stir in seasonings and scallions. Cook 2 minutes longer. Add broth and Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine. Cover; simmer 10 minutes. Gently stir in mushrooms and tomatoes. Cover; simmer 5 minutes longer. Serve over rice. Sauce may be served separately. Makes 6 servings.

·      After tasting, I added 1 tsp. of salt to the finished dish. I’m sure the original recipe intended regular, sodium-bomb chicken broth, but I rely on the low-sodium kind these days.
·      The recipe says to serve the chicken and sauce over hot, cooked rice, but I rounded up leftover mashed potatoes to equally delicious results.
·      Likewise, I had leftover canned tomatoes from Stuffed Beefaroni Peppers, so I substituted for the fresh, draining them well.
·      I had fresh tarragon on hand so I garnished the dish with 1T. finely chopped in addition to the dried. Delish.

Why Don’t You …
·      Definitely use fresh tomatoes when they’re in season?
·      Forget the recipe even suggested the option of canned mushrooms?
·      Play around with another liquor, like cognac or even champagne? Oh la la!

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