Sunday, 10 July 2011

Red Velvet Chicken

Petto di Pollo con una Glassa di Granatina
Poached Breast of Chicken in a Grenadine Glaze

This elegant looking dish is in fact a very simple one to prepare. And again, I am dedicating it to the person who inspired me to create it- the wonderful French Chef, Jean-Michel Simeray. He had a delicious pork dish with a grenadine glaze on his web site this week- a dish that took a long time to roast in the oven at a low temperature... a truly wonderful way to prepare meat, so that it cooks evenly, remains juicy and is deliciously tender. It reminded me of a poached meat dish I once made, which is also a gentle method of cooking, but takes a fraction of the time... and being me, impatient and impulsive, I set about re-creating it along the lines of Monsieur Simeray's dish and gave it a glaze of grenadine and red wine of my own!

We don't often use poaching as a method of preparing meat, preferring usually to fry, roast or grill, which is a real shame! Poached meat is succulent and 
juicy, and retains all of its natural flavors. The whole secret is that the meat gently reaches its ideal temperature and does not over-cook, exude its juices and dry out. The best way to do this, is to have it "float" in liquid and not touch the bottom of the saucepan- in this way, it is surrounded by the same temperature, whereas if it were to lie in the saucepan, the bottom of the meat would cook sooner, as it is in contact with the metal surface of the pan, whereas the top of the meat does not directly receive any real heat. Make sense? Good. 
This is my sneaky, cheap and cool way to do just that... wanna find out how? Read on!

Tear off a length of cling-film to about twice the height of your saucepan. What you are going to do, is tie the ends together in a knot, so that you create a loop, a kind-of sling or cradle to hang your chicken breast in. Try to get it so that when you hang it over a wooden spoon and dangle it over your pan, it hangs an inch or so above the base. This can be a little tricky, but it is work taking the couple of minutes to do this. I have seen this done before, by tying lengths of kitchen thread around the meat and then to a spoon, but I didn't want to have any marks on the tender chicken breast. So the foil, as well as being cheap, is also a more gentle way of supporting the meat in the liquid.

The liquid I used was half white wine and half water. I flavored it with a clove of garlic, a slice of ginger, a couple of cloves, a bay leaf, as twig of rosemary and of course, salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle, rolling boil and then reduce the heat till the surface of the water is just simmering. Now balance the spoon across the top of the saucepan so that the chicken floats and cooks in the liquid... and use the following 20- 25 minutes until the chicken is done, to prepare those side dishes... and of course that delicious grenadine glaze!

Cut the fennel into thin slices and put it into a flat frying pan with a couple of slices of garlic, a half cup of water and a half cup of Pastis. Season with salt, sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and allow to cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, then add a drizzle of olive oil and set to one side. Using a flat frying pan speeds up the procedure as you have a larger open surface for the fennel to cook on and the liquid evaporates more quickly.

For the carrots, use a potato peeler to shave off thin slices and use the same method as with the fennel, except that the flavorings I used for the carrot were a couple of slices of ginger, a hint of vanilla and a little sugar. Instead of olive oil, I used a tiny pat of butter to give the carrots a glaze before serving. I arranged the slices decoratively in little mounds as you can see in the photo, set them out on a baking tray, and let the sit warm in the over until serving.

The glaze is made of a reduction of red wine and a little orange juice. I added a star anis, a clove of garlic and little Cointreau to infuse it with flavor. After letting it reduce for 10 minutes or so, I added a couple of tablespoons of honey and a good shot of grenadine and allowed this to go on cooking together, until the sauce had a rich, syrupy consistency. 

By this time, the chicken is cooked and can be added to the pan with the glaze. Make sure to keep rolling the meat over and to keep spooning the glaze over the top, so that it gets a nice, luscious coat. Right at the end, add a pat of butter and remove from the heat... and go grab the other ingredients as you are now ready to serve!

I decided to keep things simple as I already have a lot of wonderful flavors going on in each individual component of this meal... so I poured a strip of sauce down the middle of my dish, cut the breast into slices, arranged these on top of the sauce and drizzled them very lightly with a little olive oil. The carrots and fennel go o either side and a sprinkle of pepper and a tiny sprig of fennel greens are the finishing touch. Et voila! Dinner is served and Bon Appetit!

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