Monday, 8 May 2017

Poached Chicken Breasts with Fines Herbes Sauce

Fines herbes: that's just a fancy French way of saying "more chervil".  Yes, when I get a bee in my bonnet it buzzes around for a while; also most of what is currently growing in the garden is chervil. Fortunately some parsley and chives too, and between them that is 3 out of the 4 herbs in the classic French combination. The fourth is tarragon, which it will not amaze you at all to hear, I don't have. Not sure it would be up now, even - maybe someone who does have some could enlighten me? Never mind; I declared my 3 herbs to be a quorum and proceeded.

This sauce is a fairly classic supposedly French sauce too, although I've mostly found versions of it by perusing 19th century English cookbooks. On its own, it's rich but fairly bland. Just what the Victorians ordered. The fines herbes give it some oomph, but they are still subtle. I served it with chicken breast; other options would be a nice, firm white fish, salmon, or salmon trout, or I could see it served over poached eggs on toast for a kind of creamy Eggs Benedict. (Use a vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian, if desired.) Ours went over noodles and (from frozen; our peas aren't that far along) peas.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Poached Chicken Breasts with Fines Herbes Sauce

Organize Yourself:
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup each finely minced fresh chervil, chives, and parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh tarragon, optional

Cream the butter, flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside. Wash and pick over the herbs, drain them well, and chop them very finely. Set them aside as well. 

Get Cooking:
2 150 gram (5 ounce) skinless boneless chicken breasts (OR equivalent white fish)
1 cup unsalted chicken (or fish) stock
2 bay leaves
1" piece of lemon zest (no white pith)
1/2 cup 10% (coffee) cream
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons lemon juice OR tarragon vinegar

Put the chicken pieces and chicken stock (or fish, etc) into a largish pot with the bay leaves and lemon zest, and simmer gently for about 10 to 12 minutes, until cooked. Use this time to cook your noodles or generally get ready whatever else you plan to serve.

Remove the cooked chicken to a serving dish. Remove and discard the bay leaves and lemon zest. Be sure the chicken stock is just simmering gently, then mix a spoonful of stock into the bowl of butter and flour. Mix well to a smooth paste, then whisk it into the chicken stock. Let it simmer for a minute as you whisk the egg yolk into the cream. Whisk that into the chicken stock as well. Watch and gently whisk the sauce as it thickens; do not let it boil or even simmer again. Once it is thick and steaming hot, remove it from the heat and whisk in the herbs and the lemon juice or vinegar until the herbs are just wilted. Pour it over the chicken and serve at once, preferably over some starchy thing that will soak it up a bit. Noodles, toast, or rice all seem appropriate. I am less certain about mashed potatoes, but maybe.

Last year at this time I made Buckwheat Porridge.

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