Supremes de Volaille
Serves 2 or 4—see notes.
My favorite decadent dish, this combines chicken in a rich cream sauce that tastes great with rice. Recommended side dish: steamed or grilled asparagus.
[amazon-product align=”right”]0684800012[/amazon-product]The recipe comes from an old cookbook my mother owns, but has been updated to reflect things I’ve learned over the years. Much of my recent success with it is due to watching Good Eats with Alton Brown, reading Cooks Illustrated magazine and reading “On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee.
This dish is best prepared on a gas or induction cooktop. It can be cooked on an electric cooktop, but it will be much more difficult to control the temperature of the sauce during reduction, which makes it a lot easier for the whole deal to go horribly wrong.
The recipe calls for two pair of boneless chicken breasts. It works best if the breasts are pounded into paillards or butterflied so that they are thin and even in height. If you’re short on time, you can buy “chicken breast cutlets” in most stores that have already been pounded or butterflied, but they generally aren’t as even as you could do yourself. You can substitute chicken tenders for the breasts; if you do so, remove as much of the tendons as possible before cooking. I recommend Bell and Evans brand chicken; it is far superior to most alternatives. Avoid “kosher” chicken, as it will be much saltier and may harm the taste of the dish.
Seasoning the chicken with kosher salt and pepper before cooking it adds extra flavor. Because the sauce is light colored, I prefer using white pepper. It also adds a unique flavor, softer and sharper than black pepper. If you don’t have white pepper, you can use black pepper, but be sure to use fresh-ground pepper, with a fine grind.
As my culinary skills grew, I learned that chicken stock and chicken broth aren’t the same thing. The original recipe calls for chicken stock, which wasn’t widely available in stores when I first started making this dish. It’s now available in aseptic cartons at most grocery stores, or you can make your own. Stock, unlike broth, has gelatin in it, which helps the sauce thicken. If you use broth to make this dish, your sauce will always turn out watery and won’t stick well to the chicken. (You can compensate for this, to some extent, by adding a pinch of unflavored gelatin to the broth.)
[amazon-product]B0000TU6P0[/amazon-product]I discovered that European-style butter, with its higher fat content, helps hold the sauce together. In particular, Lurpak Danish butter resists seperating during cooking, and the tanginess from the cultures used in European butter adds an extra dimension of flavor. Lurpak isn’t widely carried in the United States, but speciality stores often have it. Other European-style butters, such as Plugra, should also perform well. Whatever you do, don’t use margarine or another butter substitute! Butter contains natural emulsifiers that are critical to the sauce.
This dish is best prepared using a good dry white wine that you would enjoy drinking. In my youth, I used cooking wine; I now know that it’s little better than brine. My favorite wine for this recipe is Salmon Run Chardonnay from the Finger Lakes region of New York. It’s hard to find outside of New York; an excellent substitute is Black Box Wines‘ chardonnay, which is readily available at good wine stores and will last for well over a month in your refrigerator.
[amazon-product]B000A7NN4I[/amazon-product]My girlfriend and I think the best part of this meal is the rice, which absorbs the sauce and becomes incredibly flavorful. The best rice is a medium-grain white rice. It’s somewhat sticky and takes the sauce readily. Long-grain white rice can also be used, such as basmati. The delicate flavor of jasmine rice will be overwhelmed by the sauce. You can use Minute Rice if you must, but it’s nowhere near as good. I enhanced the flavor of the rice by cooking it in chicken broth. If you eat rice often, I recommend purchasing an electric rice cooker; it makes preparation much easier. I particularly like the Zojirushi NH-VBC18, which uses electromagnetic induction for perfect rice every time.
The sauce is flavored by the fond left over from cooking the chicken breasts. Fond won’t form in a nonstick pan. Cook this dish in a 12-inch stainless-steel-clad frypan or sauté pan. If you don’t have one, I recommend spending the money on All-Clad. They’re expensive, but they perform much better than anything else I’ve tried. Lesser pans tend to burn this dish.
The key to making the sauce is realizing that it’s an emulsion. The fats and oils in the butter and cream must be combined with the watery stock and wine. To pull this off, you need to add the cream slowly, whisking it in with a flat whisk. This emulsifies the fats and liquids, creating a homogenous mixture. If you add the cream too quickly, or fail to mix completely, it will seperate and the sauce won’t turn out right. A flat, or roux, whisk is best because it won’t add so much air to the cream. You’re trying to emulsify the cream, not whip it.
The sauce will seperate and thicken if held in the pan after it’s finished. If you won’t be serving the dish immediately, transfer the sauce to a Thermos container to keep it warm. Use hot water to pre-heat the Thermos while you’re cooking the sauce.
To finish the sauce, add lemon juice to taste. I find that the juice from one whole lemon is about right for this dish. Use a small fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds and pulp from the juice before adding it to the sauce. Don’t add the lemon until you are ready to serve.
Serve this dish in large bowls or plates with a high rim, to hold the sauce. When serving, first put the rice on the plate or bowl. Spoon some of the sauce over the rice to flavor it, then put the chicken on top and cover it with sauce. After preparing all the servings, add any leftover sauce evenly to the rice on all servings.
If you really like lemon, grate lemon zest from the lemon before juicing it using a Microplane grater. Before serving, sprinkle the chicken and rice with the zest.
If you like extra sauce, you may double the sauce ingredients.
- Two pair boneless chicken breasts, seperated and butterflied or pounded into nice flat pieces
- ¼ cup unsalted European-style butter
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 fresh lemon, for juicing
- kosher salt
- fresh ground pepper, preferably white pepper
- dried parsley flakes
- 2 cups medium-grain white rice (or more, to suit)
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (for the rice)
- Preheat your oven to 170°F or its lowest setting, whichever is higher. Put an oven-safe dish into the oven to warm up as well—something the right size to hold the chicken, like a medium casserole or a Corningware roasting pan. Make sure the dish will contain a small amount of juices that may leak from the chicken.
- Prepare the chicken, pounding it if necessary. Pat the chicken dry, and season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. (A light touch is recommended.)
- Meanwhile, cook the rice in the chicken broth. It should be slightly on the dry side.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium-high heat in at 12″ frypan or sauté pan. Cover the pan with a spatter shield if you have one.
- When the butter stops bubbling vigorously, add the chicken and sauté, turning the chicken over when the first side is lightly browned, until it is firm to the touch. Flip the chicken as needed to avoid over-browning it. If it’s not quite cooked all the way through, that’s OK—it will finish in the oven.
- Transfer the chicken to the pre-warmed dish, cover the dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil, and return the dish to the oven.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the white wine. Using a wooden spatula or spoon, scrape the burned bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chicken stock. Cook down until syrupy. “Syrupy” is when you can drag a spoon through the liquid, and it takes its time about filling in the hole left by the spoon’s passage.
- Add the cream in a slow drizzle, mixing it in using a flat whisk.
- Cook down until slightly thickened, at a simmer or light boil, stirring occasionally with the whisk. You want a consistency that will cling to the chicken. If you put a spoon into the sauce and sort of sticks to the spoon instead of just sliding off when you turn the spoon sideways, it’s slightly thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. It should be fairly salty; it won’t taste as salty when served.
- If not serving immediately, pour the sauce into a Thermos or other insulated container that can handle the heat for safe storage. If you leave it in the pan, it will do nasty things while you get everything else ready.
- Add lemon juice to suit your tastes. You may find that you prefer using the juice of half a lemon, to get more cream flavor; a whole lemon will give you a distinct citrus taste.
- Fill the bottom of a pasta bowl or deep-rimmed dish with the rice. Pour a little bit of sauce on the rice in the center, where you’re going to plop down the chicken. Put the chicken on the plate, then pour the sauce over the chicken and the rice. Sprinkle parsley flakes on top. Serve promptly.