Monday, March 28, 2016

Chicken Dijonnaise and Leeks Dijonnaise

Leeks Dijonnaise

I could have titled this post "Chicken and Leeks Dijonnaise," but that might have led you to believe this about a single dish with chicken and leeks, when it is actually two separate "Dijonnaise" dishes.

What is "Dijonnaise?" Despite marketing attempts, it is not traditionally a sort of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard concoction, but rather a term that refers to dishes with sauces made with Dijon mustard. In this case, there's a simple pan-fried chicken dish with a quick sauce made from mustard, shallots and white wine (or vermouth, which I used in this case), and a wonderful cooked leeks dish with a Dijon-mustard dressing adapted from a recipe for Leeks Dijonnaise served at Convivial, chef Cedric Maupillier's newest D.C. restaurant that opened last year.

You may recall that we visited Convivial and had a wonderful dinner, which included the Leeks Dijonnaise. The recipe for the dish appeared in the Washington Post recently. I simplified the recipe a bit by omitting a couple of ingredients: the fried capers, which I replaced with capers just from the jar and the fried croutons, which I'm sure are delicious, but I wanted to streamline the dish a bit and eliminating the two fried ingredients seemed like a way to make it not just simpler but also healthier.

Cleaning and cooking the leeks
Before we move to to the chicken, let's talk a bit about preparing the leeks. Cleaning the sand from the between the layers of leeks is important, but can be frustratingly time-intensive if you don't do it right. I learned an excellent tip from New York Times recipe writer Melissa Clark that makes cleaning leeks a snap. Her method is to slice off the dark green part first (which is generally discarded in recipes), then slice through the leeks lengthwise with the root-end intact. Keeping the root attached means the layers are secured together at one end, making it easy to fan the layers with your fingers under running water to remove any sand that has collected between them.

The chicken dish below goes nicely with the leeks. I used boneless-skinless chicken thighs, which are first dredged in flour, giving them a bit of outer coating, although far less than the breading for fried chicken. The residual flour that remains in the pan also helps thicken the resulting Dijon-wine sauce. You can use any dry white wine for this sauce. Sauvignon blanc, for example, would work well. I find that dry vermouth is great in these kinds of sauces, and it's a good way to use up dry vermouth if you've opened a bottle to make gin martinis but don't drink them often enough to use up the vermouth before it spoils (of course, you keep your opened vermouth in the refrigerator, right?).

Leeks Dijonnaise

Leeks Dijonnaise
Adapted (pretty liberally) from the Convivial Leeks Dijonnaise recipe by Cedric Maupillier, Washington Post

3-4 leeks, dark green leaves removed (about 1 lb. after the dark green part is removed)
3 large eggs
2 tbsp. minced shallots
2 tbsp. minced cornichons
1 tbsp. small capers (the ones that are no larger than 1/4-inch)

1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tbsp. champagne vinegar (or other white wine vinegar)
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1 cup sunflower microgreens (original recipe called for mustard greens or chervil)

1. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise (note: do not first slice off the root--keeping it intact will hold the leeks together). Rinse the leeks with cold water to remove and sand, separating the layers with your fingers to make sure they are clean.

2. Set a steamer insert in a medium saucepan, fill the pan with water up to the insert and set it over medium-high heat to bring to a boil. Add the leeks to the pan, cover and steam for 8 minutes. Remove the leeks and set aside on a plate to cool for at least 20 minutes (I refrigerated them). Slice the leeks width-wise into pieces no wider than 1/2-inch. Add to a large bowl.

3. Place the eggs in a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water until there is an inch of water above the eggs. Place pan on stove and heat over medium-high heat until the water boils. Immediately remove pan from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Then place eggs in ice water for 5 minutes (this makes them easier to peel). Carefully crack eggs all over, roll gently on a hard surface, and then use your hands to remove the shell, starting at the less-pointy end. Rinse the peeled eggs by dipping them in the bowl with the ice water. Separate the cooked yolks from the cooked white and chop both into dice. Add to the bowl with the leeks.

4. Add the minced shallots, cornichons and capers to the large bowl with the leeks and eggs.

5. Add the garlic and salt to a small bowl and mash with a rounded muddler or the back of a spoon to form a paste (alternatively, use a mortar and pestle, then transfer the paste to the bowl). Add the vinegar, mustard and pepper and whisk to combine, then whisk in the oil. Pour the dressing over the leeks mixture and toss to combine.

6. Arrange the dressed leeks mixture on a platter. Top with the fresh chives and microgreens.

Chicken Dijonnaise
Adapted from multiple recipes, such as Chicken Dijonnaise by Better Homes and Gardens

2 tbsp. extra-virign olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 lb. boneless-skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup dry vermouth (or other dry white wine)
3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels and dredge in flour. Add to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the meat is cooked through and the edges are browned, about 10-12 minutes, turning halfway through. Set cooked chicken aside on a plate.

2. Add the shallots to the pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the vermouth (or wine) and stir with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits. Add the mustard and stir with a whisk to combine with the wine mixture. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a couple of minutes until thickened.

3. Serve the chicken on a platter topped with the Dijon sauce and sprinkled with fresh parsley.

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