Friday, July 4, 2014

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Tarragon-Lemon-Garlic Sauce

Chicken's well-known versatility makes a good partner for many different herbs. Tarragon works particularly well with chicken. It looks a bit like rosemary, except its leaves are more delicate and have a greener flavor in contrast to rosemary's bitter piney taste.

I like this technique for lightly dredging chicken breasts before sautéing them. The thin layer of flour helps promote good browning with the full-blown crunchy layer you get with actual breading. It makes for a lighter dish that's perfect with a sauce like this one, a potent but summery blend of tarragon, garlic, lemon and white wine. It also doesn't take that long to cook; about 10 minutes for the chicken and another 10 for the sauce. Depending on the sides you choose, you could easily have this on the table in half an hour.

Roasted New Potatoes
Roasted new potatoes.

Not being rushed, I opted for a side of roasted new potatoes and green beans sautéed with baby leeks. A smoky dose of paprika stands in for the usual bacon. The cooking time on the beans depends on your particular taste. I know there's a trend to cook green beans less these days, although I actually like them cooked a little bit longer. Six minutes in boiling water is a nice compromise between the almost-raw texture of a quick blanch and the falling-apart tenderness of beans cooked for a long time.

Tarragon-Lemon-Garlic sauce

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Tarragon-Lemon-Garlic Sauce

2 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. fine garlic powder
Seasoned salt, to taste
3 or 4 boneless-skinless chicken breast halves
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. minced garlic (about 3 garlic cloves)
1/2 cup dry white wine
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. fresh chopped tarragon

1. Heat vegetable or canola oil in a frying pan over medium heat until almost smoking hot. Whisk together flour, garlic powder and seasoned salt in a shallow bowl. Pat chicken breasts dry with paper towels and dredge in the flour mixture, tapping off any excess. Add to the frying pan with the hot oil and sauté until browned on one side, turn over and brown the other side. Continue cooking until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 F. Remove from pan.

2. Pour excess oil from pan. Add butter. When melted, add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add white lemon, lemon juice, mustard and tarragon and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking frequently, until reduced by about half, about 5-10 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce spooned over it.

Roasted New Potatoes

1 lb. new potatoes, well scrubbed, cut into quarters
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine cut potatoes, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Arrange potatoes on baking sheet in a single layer with cut sides down. Roast until potatoes are browned, about 40-45 minutes.

Sautéed Green Beans with Baby Leeks

1 lb. fresh green beans, ends trimmed off, beans cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces
Pinch of salt and pinch of sugar
2 tbsp. butter
4 baby leeks, green ends discard, white and light green parts cleaned and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (see this video for cleaning leeks)
1 tbsp. minced garlic (about 3 garlic cloves)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar

1. Heat a large saucepan of water over high heat until it boils. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Add the green beans and boil for 6 minutes. Drain beans and set aside in a bowl.

2. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add butter and, when melted, add the leeks and garlic. Sauté until the leeks have softened, about 5 minutes or a little more. Add the green beans and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and smoked paprika and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cook for 1 minute more.

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