December 29, 2011
Chicken with Caper Cream Sauce
Sean Kelly's in Missoula has (or had, hopefully still has) a chicken alfredo with bacon and capers that I was pretty much obsessed with for 2 years. It was the perfect balance of some of my favorite things to eat. I have scrounged the internet since I moved to Astoria to find a recipe that tasted the same. Yeah, I know I could just throw chicken and capers and bacon into an alfredo, but somehow that just didn't do it for me. I finally found what I was looking for, well, sorta.
What I found was (dare I say it..) better than Sean Kelly's. I know that is a big statement, but it's true for me. Who knows, maybe it's because I've forgotten how good it was or maybe it's because I made the dinner last night, but it was amazing. I actually used my fingers to get all the last bits of sauce off my plate at the end. It was that good. But, without further ado, lets get to the cooking!
I have been meaning to make this dish for about the past week, just never really had the right time to do it, and that whole my-ex-took-all-my-cooking-stuff-and-skipped-town thing threw a wrench in my plans too. Point is, I had all my ingredients on hand so I thankfully didn't have to go out in the crazy storm last night after work. As soon as I walked in the door I kicked off my shoes and tossed my last pieces of bacon in the cast iron to cook up. Then I grabbed the biggest chicken breast I had on hand (I was having company), halved it and pulled together the rest of my ingredients.
While the bacon is sizzling away I squeeze some lemon and sprinkle some pepper on the chicken in a bowl to do a short marinade. The original recipe calls for lemon pepper, but that stuff just doesn't taste as good as using fresh lemon juice and black pepper. Dill can quickly overpower other spices so I will wait on using that until right before the chicken goes in the pan.
Once the bacon is done I drain and clean the grease out and toss in about 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan and a heaping tablespoon of garlic. This may sound like an obscene amount of butter to saute with, but I will be using it later for the sauce. I season just the bottom of the chicken with another splash of lemon and pepper as well as a sprinkle of dill and salt. As that side cooks, I season the top side with the same stuff. I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but when I'm working with lemon juice and seasonings it seems like most of the time I leave half the seasoning on the cutting board.
I'm cooking on about a med/high heat and flipping every couple of min to ensure even cooking. The high heat also helps to form the "fond" or caramelized meat juices, basically the stuff that sticks to the pan when you aren't using a non-stick pan, or are using a non-stick pan but all the non-sticky stuff has stopped working. I'll be using those morsels to make my sauce in just a moment.
After I'm satisfied that my chicken is cooked through I transfer the breast halves to a paper towel and then to a piece of tinfoil in the warmed oven. Doing this got rid of some of the extra butter and will keep the chicken warm and finish off any cooking that needs to happen without drying it out.
I am not going to drain the pan because I want all that tasty goodness to make the sauce with, instead I splash some white wine in and start scraping with a wooden spoon. Once I'm satisfied with my deglazing I melt another 2 tablespoons of butter (no one said this dinner would be good for a diet!) and add a little bit more then 1/2 cup of whipping cream. I start whisking away over med/low heat to start reducing the sauce.
I whisk for about 5 min or so and although my sauce has reduced slightly, it is still too runny for me so I add some Parmesan cheese and that works to thicken it up. Next I add my chopped up bacon and about a tablespoon of capes and another pinch of Parmesan cheese and let that sit on low heat while I get the chicken out of the oven and sliced up. I already have my fettuccine noodles cooked and Cesar salads made so I'm ready to go!
Dinner, as I said before, was amazing. The chicken was perfectly cooked: moist and flavorful, the sauce was creamy and light with nice bites of capers and filled out with the bacon. I was drinking a glass of wine from the same bottle I had used in the sauce so it complemented the dish wonderfully. The crisp salad also helps to lighten the dish up, although the sauce wasn't as heavy as I had been anticipating (that's a good thing). I wish I had made more so I could have leftovers, but that's OK. I will be making it again.
One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.