Sunday, February 7, 2010

Poulet Saute a la Bordelaise -- lightened up a bit

From the great food author Elizabeth David's classic book "French Provincial Cooking," her chicken sauteed with shallots and artichoke hearts used to be in my repertoire, especially for company. (It was the first meal I cooked for the man who became my husband, it so happens.) But it calls for a whole chicken, cut up (with skin and bones), along with 6 tablespoons of butter. It had dropped out of my repertoire some years ago.
This weekend I resurrected it for a dinner party, but used breasts only -- with a little skin left on for flavor -- and substituted canola oil for the butter, and not cut back to four tablespoons. We also had a vegetarian entree (two of our guests were not meat-eaters), so I had the butcher cut the large chicken breasts in half. If the chicken pieces are large, this recipe easily will serve six.

One more note: look for free range chicken raised humanely, hormone free, and no water added to the meat. It's not easy to find this kind of chicken, and you're never really sure what you're getting, no matter what the label says. I bought mine at Whole Foods, where the head of the meat department assured me that "all our chicken is free-range."

Recipe: Poulet Saute a la Bordelaise/Sauteed chicken with shallots and artichoke hearts

Four large bone-in split chicken breasts, cut in half
4 T canola oil
2 cups whole peeled shallots--cut in half lengthwise if they are very large
Freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 12-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and drained
1/2 cup chicken stock

Wash the chicken pieces and trim any visible fat and extra skin. Dry thoroughly with paper towels.
Heat 3 T of the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken--a few pieces at a time, if necessary (don't crowd the pan)--on all sides, starting with the skin side down. When the pieces become brown, remove to a plate and tent with foil.
Add the shallots to the pan and stir well as you cook them. When they start to brown, return the chicken to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, lay the bay leaves on top and cover the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Every 7-8 minutes, spoon the pan juices over the chicken.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 T oil in a smaller skillet. Add the artichoke hearts and stir well. Season with salt, cover the pan and cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the hearts are tender.
After the chicken has cooked about 15 minutes, remove the pieces from the skillet and arrange them on a platter with the shallots and artichoke hearts. Discard the bay leaves.
Pour the chicken stock into the large skillet and boil over high heat, scraping the pan drippings. Boil for a couple of minutes until the stock reduces to about 1/3 cup. Pour over the chicken and serve at once.

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