Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pan Seared Chicken Cutlets with Orange Balsamic Glaze

I made this chicken up the other night and I think it's a nice twist on plain old chicken cutlets. What's interesting is - you get that lovely mellow orange flavor with just a touch of sweetness, reminiscent of Orange Beef from Chinese takeout, but there's not a drop of sugar or honey in here. The flavor simply comes from reducing the orange juice and balsamic for several minutes until the natural sugar therein decides to make an appearance.

I just made mine plain jane because I was too lazy to go up to the roof and snip rosemary (I like to pretend it's because it was raining outside but you and I know the truth) but I think the sauce could become even more interesting with a little addition of something. The Asian flavor could be dialed up with toasted sesame seeds or chopped cilantro or green onion. Or you could go more wine country, playing off the balsamic, with something like the rosemary.

By the way, Pinot Noir seemed to like this dish. It wanted me to tell you that.

Pan Seared Chicken Cutlets with Orange Balsamic Glaze over Cauliflower Puree
Serves 2.

Ingredients for Chicken:
2 chicken cutlets (boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded flat but not too flat that they won't hold up in the pan)
salt and pepper, for seasoning
1/3 cup flour for dredging
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
juice and zest of 1 orange (should provide somewhere between 1/3 cup and 1/2)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
dash salt
Options for seasoning - small pinch fresh rosemary leaves, chopped/fresh cilantro leaves/lightly toasted sesame seeds

Instructions for Chicken:
Season the chicken cutlets on both sides with salt and pepper. Pour the flour into a pie plate or small, aluminum lined baking sheet, and dredge the chicken through on both sides. Shake them gently, then repeat. You want a decent coating for this recipe (i.e. it's okay if the chicken is now white from flour versus a light dredging.) Set aside.

Add the olive oil to a medium, rimmed skillet and put over a burner on medium heat. Let heat through for at least one minute, so the chicken will sear when added and not lie there limply soaking up the oil. Add the chicken - dipping one edge in first to see if it sears - if not, hold off another 30 seconds. Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until each side begins to turn golden brown (if your pan dries out after cooking on the first side - add a little more oil, letting it get hot before putting the chicken back in on the other side.) When both sides are golden, remove and set aside.

Add the orange juice and chicken stock to the pan and raise the heat to medium high while you scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, mixing them into the liquid. Let come to a low boil and boil for about 7 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the balsamic vinegar and continue to let bubble and cook down, stirring every so often, for another 6 minutes or until the sauce has thickened (this sauce doesn't get fudge thick but you should be able to leave a wake in the pan when you drag a wooden spoon through.) Lower the heat to low and add the butter along with a small pinch of kosher salt, stirring the butter in well to incorporate (as well as any additional herbs if adding.) Return the chicken to the pan and let heat through while on low heat. Serve by scooping a big mound of cauliflower puree onto each plate then setting the cutlet on top and spooning additional orange balsamic sauce over and around the edges for the puree to soak up. Garnish with sesame seeds or sprig of fresh herbs, if using.

Ingredients for Cauliflower:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into 3/4 inch florets of roughly the same size
1 garlic clove, cut into thirds
splash low sod chicken stock (about 1/3 cup - just enough to provide a 1/4 inch pool of liquid for the florets)
1-2 cups rice milk, regular milk, or soy milk
Dash Truffle oil to finish, optional

Instructions for Cauliflower:
* You'll notice my instructions for how much milk to add aren't very specific, but with all purees their destiny is an unsure one and is affected by many things including the size of cauliflower you use, the humidity in your home at the time you make this, and God's will, so be flexible.

Place the florets in a small/medium lidded pot. Add the stock, just providing a shallow kiddie pool for them to sit in (the liquid will only touch the florets on the bottom and shouldn't come even half way up to the pile of florets.) Add in the garlic and a pinch of salt sprinkling over. Place the lid on and put the burner on low heat. Let come to a gentle simmer and steam away for 20-25 minutes or until the florets are easily pierced (test the stalks as they're the toughest part) with a fork. Check them about half way through to see if you need to add more stock.

Remove from the heat, add a half cup of milk as well as another hefty pinch of salt, and puree with a hand held immersion blender (or place in a food processor.) As you blend, you'll notice it eats up the liquid so add more slowly and in little amounts, as once you add too much there's no taking it out. Also, remember that you're going to use the puree to soak up additional sauce from the chicken, so err on the thicker versus thinner side. Taste for salt, making any adjustments necessary, and stir in a dash of truffle oil if you're feeling sexy.

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