Sunday, January 24, 2010

Supreme de Poulet a l'Estragon / Chicken Breasts in Tarragon Cream Sauce

This was another that fell under the tried before and not quite as good the second time around. The difference: creme fraiche. The extra tang offered by creme fraiche over heavy cream helped to elevate it before. This particular recipe is one of the variations listed. We made the decision to cook the variations as well as the regular recipes because they generally have enough changes to make it worthwhile. The original in this case is Chicken Breasts with Crayfish.

I cooked this as part of the celebrating the start of Scott's semester back at Boise State. Scott's usually done the recipes involving flambé in the past. More because he likes it. A lot. I got to try my hand this time around. I'm lucky I didn't catch the house on fire. Maybe I'll leave lighting dinner on fire to my husband.

I did make a modification. I wasn't quite feeling like making a rich side dish to accompany something with a full cup of heavy cream, so I chopped up a Japanese sweet potato and a few fingerlings to make life a little easier. I know there may be some who think I'm not being true to cooking through the book, but I was thinking the other day about why we haven't added a grading system to our blog like some of the others I've seen. Aside from my general distaste for rating things that are subjective (I'm notorious for doing everything I can to avoid giving a score to wine we drink, even in a blind tasting setting), I think it also has to do with my treatment of recipes as a good base off which one can make modifications. There is quite a bit of improvisation in our kitchen, and I like to keep it that way. Instead of deciding that a recipe deserves a C, D, or A, I'd rather consider what might be done to improve it. Sometimes, that's as simple as a little sherry vinegar, as with the pork with apples. Other times, it involves addition or substitution of ingredients. I'd much rather be able to think about what kind of adjustment will improve the flavor than write a dish of completely. Obviously, some recipes simply don't match with a person's tastebuds, and I recognize that, but I'm still happier in the kitchen if I give myself some leeway to cook something my way.

How did the modification work? Fingerlings were excellent. I added them right after the wine and the broth, so they were able to cook in the sauce. I'd probably go ahead and roast the Japanese sweet potatoes on their own next time to get a crunchy outside and cook them with thyme or rosemary or another more roundly flavored herb. Tarragon is so fresh and bright. It doesn't give the same savory edge to the sweetness of the potatoes.

The sauce and chicken went very well together, but I've long been a fan of the combination of chicken, white wine & tarragon. I think we might try it out again when the weather warms up again.

Both of us were generally happy with the outcome, but I'll take the extra time to find creme fraiche (a relative rarity here in Idaho) for the next time we make it.

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