Last week I was in some sort of funk — nothing I made was all that inspiring, and I didn’t make much anyway, besides phone calls to the local pizza joint to order delivery. Don’t know why – just couldn’t ignite my culinary imagination. It happens. I used to beat myself up about it, but now I recognize wee slumps as part of the cycle of life. Good thing about a slump? If you spin it right, you can see it as nothing but the nadir of a ramp designed to launch a body into super happy space, where the downer pull of gravity has less influence, and where catching orbit is just some will-power away. It’s like this on this new app I’m playing on my phone, where I’m a snowboarder floating major air, flipping huge tricks, and catching wicked grabs down this huge mountain, and if I digitally “dig in” before hitting the upswipe of a ramp, and release at the zenith, I am shot sheer into space; so this recipe is me just bending my knees, digging into the downward, building up speed for something massive and lofty – coming soon. Don’t know what it is yet – but stay posted. For today, I threw together a simple but savory meal on the fly, inspired by Kitchen of Friends: tender tasty chicken breasts draped in a smooth sweet soy sauce cream, studded with earthy supple mushrooms, and served open-faced over toast. Coupled with what I think of as a sexy caprese salad, this super supper took less than an hour, cost less than $20, and used just a few simple ingredients. It may have taken too long to qualify as a Weeknight Wondermeal, but in simplicity and “wow”, it comes pretty darn close. The idiosyncrasies of internet-browsing inspired the provocative title, but Lolita doesn’t just sell-out by baiting a hook and not delivering: this meal is for mature audiences only – soft core, but still sexy as hell.
Golden Breasts Bathed in Mushroom Umame Cream
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 8oz each
1 lb assorted wild mushrooms
dry sherry (or mirin)
a small baguette
sea salt, cracked black pepper
baby romaine lettuces
1 boll burrata cheese
fresh, sweet tomato
a very good balsamic vinegar
I didn’t want to pound out these boners the way I usually do; I wanted plump, juicy, tender pan-seared, baked, then braised chicken breasts. And I wanted simple. So I wash these babies, pat them dry with paper towels, and sprinkle them heartily with sea salt and pepper.
I tried to capture the “shimmer” of perfectly heated oil in a sauté pan — can you see the squiggly on the surface of my sesame/EVOO blend? To test it, I just dip the tip of one of my breasts and make sure the nip sizzles before spreading both boners out over the surface of my pan. (What? What’d I say?)
I’ve learned that the best way to pan-sear steaks is to flip them every minute until medium rare, instead of only once – searing each side. It locks in the juices, keeps the surfaces from drying and stringing out, and basically makes a much more tender steak. I decided to try that with chicken breasts tonight: nice, thick, natural, zaftig breasts. I start by searing the breasts, slick side down, for one minute in my hot, shimmering sesamEVOOil. I flip them, searing for another minute. I then flip these babies each minute, for about 15 minutes total, setting the thickest part of the breast on the hottest part of the pan, and sort of snaking the smaller tips up the sides, in an effort to cook the breast evenly. I don’t know if this is a viable technique; works for me, tho.
I remove them to a ceramic dish, then throw them into my preheated 350° oven to bake while I finish the sauce. This way I know they’ll cook all the way through, but they shouldn’t lose their juiciness.
My mushrooms are a mix of shiitake, portobello, and crimini mushrooms; not exactly the wild variety I wanted, but easily accessible and fairly affordable. In fact, my mushrooms were the most expensive part of the meal, cashing in at $5, where my chicken breasts were only $4. Anyway, I throw them into my pan –the one sticking with my chicken bits and still glazed with a few tablespoons of hot oil — and brown them for about 2 minutes.
I then add a few glugs of dry sherry, which will help melt the mushrooms, which will release their inner juices, which then has to be boiled down. I cook this over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, until the liquid in the pan has reduced…
… and the sauce is thick enough to be parted with the flat of a wooden spatula. See? The sherry attracted the mushroom juice, which doubled the volume of the liquid in the pan, but the heat then reduced that liquid, concentrating it into the plump little supple sliced bodies of the yum fungus.
I add 1/4 cup of soy sauce, and let it bowl down for about 2 minutes.
I’ve removed my chicken from the oven, where it has baked nicely through for the last 15 minutes, and I lay it into my thick, saucy pan. I braise it in the liquid over low heat for the next 15 minutes, turning from time to time to glaze both sides with the super rich and flavorful sauce.
5 minutes left, and I pour about a cup of heavy cream over both my breasts and my abundant mushrooms. I set my heat to medium , stir and flip this around nicely, and let it simmer until it thickens — about 10 minutes, just enough time for me to toast off some bread planks to use as a platform for all this richness.
See? A few thick slices of fresh baguette, brushed with EVOO and toasted on both sides until just golden brown. I have sliced my silky-creamy-mushroom-sauce-steeped lithesome chicken breasts into shingles; then I have languidly spread them on their crusty couches, much like tawny Odalisques draped across crushed golden velvet sedans, awaiting the ravishment of mine and my mate’s prodding, spearing forks. Take that, you saucy bird!
A baby’s breath boll of burrata cheese, interlaced with some sweet tomato slices, drizzled with EVOO and fine balsamic vinegar, and nested on a simple salad of baby romaine lettuce, and I’ve got the perfect compliment to my savory (but not salty), rich and creamy (but not heavy) tender mushroom open-faced weeknight dinner – something whipped up in less than an hour, but nevertheless, well worth remembering for future nights’ delights. Lean into this one, friends – the sauce-soaked French toast winner winner chicken dinner is two-elbows on the table good.