Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lunch Week 30: Dijon Chicken, Sour Cherry Couscous, and Goat Cheese with Beets Salad

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Dijon Chicken, Sour Cherry Couscous, and Goat Cheese with Beets Salad
After last week's poor performance of a bagged lunch, I wanted to step it up this week. I had plenty of time to work with this past weekend so I looked through some recipes. I decided to make something new and dijon chicken came to mind. I had printed out a copy of the recipe from Serious Eats awhile ago but had never attempted the dish. What better time than now?

First the chicken. I made a visit to my favorite butcher in the city, Esposito's, and got 10 chicken thighs. I had them cut it at the joint for me. I left the skin and bones on for flavor. Once home, I dried each piece with a paper towel then tossed them generously with salt and black pepper.

I put the chicken aside and prepped the other ingredients. Going clockwise from the top left, I had some homemade chicken stock, white wine, dijon mustard mixed with heavy cream, thyme, and chopped shallots and garlic.
I took a heavy bottom pan (my cast iron skillet) and added a bit of oil to the bottom. I placed the chicken in the pan when it was super hot. I seared both sides until golden brown. Since I had so much chicken, I seared all the pieces in 2 batches.
I removed the chicken to a plate, then add the chopped garlic and shallots to the pan. I cooked them lightly on low heat until translucent.
Then I poured the wine in the pan, raised the heat, and allowed it to boil for bit. In the meantime, I scrapped up the browned pieces from the bottom of the pan. Once the alcohol burned off, I added chicken stock and the thyme to the pan. I brought that up to a boil as well.
Now I added the chicken back into the pan making sure every single piece was somehow nuzzled into the sauce. I covered the pot and let it simmer for about a 1/2 hour.
The chicken should be fully cooked through at this point.
Remove the chicken again, remove the thyme stems, take the pan off the heat, then add the mustard cream sauce. Stir until well mixed. Afterward, I put the chicken back in the sauce to evenly coat every piece.
As I let the chicken marinate in the sauce, I worked on the other components of this week's lunch. In this bowl, I chopped up half a red onion and 1 small bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley.
I boiled some chicken stock, water, and oil in a separate pot. Then I added some Israeli couscous. I let it simmer while covered for a few minutes until it's soft yet still retains a nice bounce.
I immediately tossed the couscous into the bowl of veggies and added some more oil to prevent it from sticking. To that, I added some roughly chopped reconstituted dry sour cherries. Mix well again. Season to taste.
For my salad, I used some red beets which I roasted in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. They became really soft and delicious. To peel the skins off, I took a spoon and scraped the soft skins. It should come off very easily. Be wary of the staining that may occur on your cutting board and your hands.
And so my lunch is the dijon chicken with a side of the sour cherry couscous, and beet and goat cheese salad.
I really liked the variety of flavors and texture of this lunch. The chicken was very juicy and had a lot of flavor. The mustard was slightly muted from the cream but delicious any way. I would add more mustard next time. The couscous is pleasantly chewy with a note of tartness from the cherries and some freshness from the onion and parsley. Lastly, the salad was both sweet from the beets and creamy from the goat cheese while remaining fresh with the red leaf lettuce. I really liked the contrasting yet complementing flavors. I certainly won't be bored of this by the end of the week.

Recipe Courtesy of Serious Eats Recipes and Kerry Saretsky

Dijon Chicken
* 3 tablespoons light olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
* 10 chicken legs
* 2 cloves garlic, chopped
* 4 shallots, diced
* 3/4 cup white wine
* 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
* 6 stems thyme, plus extra for garnish
* 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
* 1/2 cup cream


1. In a wide, heavy-bottomed pan, heat 3 tablespoons light olive oil on medium-high heat.
2. Season the chicken legs with salt and pepper, and pat dry with paper towel. Sear in the hot oil until golden-brown on all sides. Remove to a plate.
3. Pour out the hot chicken oil, and lower the heat to low. Add 1 tablespoon fresh light olive oil to the pan. Add in the shallot, and then the garlic 1 minute later, and sauté just until translucent and fragrant—two minutes total from the time the shallots went into the pan.
4. Pour in the white wine, and raise the heat to medium-high. Reduce the wine—it will bubble the chicken bits up from the bottom of the pan, and reduce by about half. Then add the chicken stock and 6 stems of thyme. Then, nestle the chicken back into the pan in a single layer. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, and cover the pot, simmering for 30 minutes.
5. After 30 minutes, remove the cover from the pot, and allow the chicken to simmer a further 5 to 10 minutes uncovered.
6. Take the pan off the heat. Again, remove the chicken from the pan. Whisk in the cream and the mustard until the sauce is homogeneous. Then strain. Toss the chicken with the Dijon sauce, top with fresh thyme, and serve right away with crusty bread and a salad.

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