Pollo al Arancia & Dragoncello, con Spinaci & Puré
Tarragon & Orange Chicken with Spinach and Mashed Potato
I have to admit, I am definitely more of a leg than a breast man- at least when it comes to chicken that is! Thigh meat is always tastier and juicier, as is all meat that is still on the bone, whereas the more delicate breast meat has a tendency to dry up if you are not careful. So I decided to try out a new approach to cooking a whole breast of chicken and to see if I could manage to get a nice result. Judging by the pictures... how do you think I did?
This may seem a strange method for cooking a chicken breast, but again, I wanted to experiment and try out something new! I started off by heating a small amount of water in my non-stick pan until it began to boil and added the chicken. I let it continue boiling until the water had evaporated away, flipped it over and added another splash. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and at this point I added a little oil. I didn't start the meat off by frying it in oil, as I wanted it to absorb the water and to steam and effectively "pre-cook" before I began to fry it. I now added a few slices of orange to the pan and some crushed garlic. Before slicing the orange, I used my zester to scrape off most of the zest as I needed this for the sauce and the garnish. I poured boiling water over the zest and added a teaspoon of sugar and let it sit- this would remove any bitterness and to make the texture more pleasant for eating.
Back to the chicken! I kept the heat relatively high at this point, as I wanted the juice of the orange to begin caramelizing a little and sticking to the bottom of the pan along with the meat juices. And then I added a good shot of Cointreau and whole lot of flavor in the form of crushed garlic, a little finely chopped fresh chili, some whole tarragon leaves a hint of cinnamon, a leaf of bay and a little bit more water. The water will start to boil and draw the juices out of the orange slices and it is at this point that we want to turn the heat down to a simmer and cover the pan to let the meat steam and take in all of those flavors.
Whilst the chicken is cooking gently, we can start to boil out potatoes for the mash and to sautée the spinach with a little garlic in olive oil. After 1-3 minutes of sautéeing the spinach, I did that same thing and added a small amount of water and turned up the heat... I seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg and continued cooking until the water had evaporated away- by which time the spinach was done.
I turned my attentions back to the chicken and added a little honey to the pan and a little
little mustard powder as well as a little of the zest. I added a little more water, replace the lid, and after a further 5-10 minutes, the meat was almost done. I now added a little sesame oil, some fresh tarragon and the remaining zest of the orange. Once these had soaked up the juices, I spooned them over the breast and then put it onto a tray and placed it under the broiler for a few minutes.
Working swiftly, I quickly mashed the potatoes with a little warm milk, butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper as usual. I set this into a serving ring and laid the spinach on top, pressed it down into shape and voila!- my little side dish was done. In the meantime, the breast was golden and the juices in the pan had reduced down to a nice, thick, sweet and tangy sauce.
My little garnish of crispy parmesan set off the spinach and potatoes nicely and dinner was served! I have to say that I found the meat to be very flavorful and juicy cooked this way. The continuous adding of small amounts of liquid let the meat constantly absorb the moisture and flavors in the pan. It definitely is a nice alternative to frying, which is not as bland as boiling or steaming and which ensures that plenty of flavor gets taken up by the meat during cooking. And all you have to do at the end of it all... is as always... to enjoy!