Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Recipe: I wish I had a “Tante Celestine”… Chicken Tante Celestine

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. – Harriet Van Horne

This lady must be someone's aunt... Photo: Andrew B47, Flickr ccl
Whoever Tante Celestine was (tante is French for “aunt”) she must have been one good cook, because this recipe is "never fail" and fantastic. It’s interesting in that it has no complicated combination of spices other than salt or pepper and only a very small bit of tarragon. There's not even any onion or garlic! I guess that's what happens when you have good ingredients combined in a simple way.

This recipe is old enough that I don’t know where it came from, nor do I have to crack a cookbook to make it. It's been in my culinary repertoire for about 15-20 years. Much of the flavour comes from the orange in the Grand Marnier. It imparts a wonderful taste that pairs perfectly with the chicken, apples and cream. 

Chicken Tante Celestine is a really good "date night" dinner to make if you're trying to impress. It's quite special. It's an impressive dish with no impressive techniques. Can you peel and slice apples and fry chicken? If so you can make this recipe. Oh, and you need to boil some rice. That’s all it takes.

So next time you want to have your date over and don’t know what to make try Chicken Tante Celestine—unless your date's a vegetarian. I don’t think tofu would substitute very well in this, but you never know!

Recipe: Chicken Tante Celestine
Total time: 30 min (or so)  | Serves 4

8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in (or a combination of chicken pieces)
4 Granny Smith apples
3 tbsp butter
6 tbsp Grand Marnier (1-1/2 small bottles)
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 tsp tarragon, dried
salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 cup sliced almond pieces

I did this recipe with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so I know it can be done that way. But frying with the skin on is a far superior result overall. It adds to the final depth of flavour. You decide.

Preparation note: After the apples have been put in the oven proceed with the chicken and sauce part of the recipe. That way the sauce and chicken will be ready at the same time as the apples and it can all be plated while everything is just cooked perfectly. Keeping things warm (either the chicken, apples or sauce) can result in overcooking.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a wide ovenproof dish. Peel, quarter, core and slice the apples. Toss in the butter and arrange so the apples are not too deep. If they're stacked on top of each other they will steam and become too soft. If you wish sprinkle a little Grand Marnier over the top. (That's called gilding the lily.)

Place the apples slices in the hot oven. Cook for a maximum of 30 minutes, tossing every so often to ensure even cooking. Test for doneness. The apples should still be firm but slightly soft. This may not take the full cooking time. Keep warm while you finish the dish.

Melt the remaining tbsp of butter in a large flat saucepan or deep skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with some of the Grand Marnier. Fry on both sides until golden brown and nearly cooked through. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

This is the chicken simmering in the sauce.
Drain off all but about 1 to 2 tbsp of any collected fat. Add the 1/2 cup of chicken stock and 2 tbsp of Grand Marnier. Bring to a boil and scrape the pan to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom.

After the liquid has reduced to half, add the whipping cream and tarragon. Add the chicken back to the pan with any collected juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the cream has reduced to a sauce. This should take about 5 minutes, give or take.

After the cream has thickened sprinkle the remaining Grand Marnier over the chicken pieces. You can continue to simmer it until the cream is reduced to your liking. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if required.

To serve, plate the chicken and top with apple slices. Spoon some of the sauce over the top and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Serve with rice.


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