May 31, 2004

Chicken Saute with Armagnac

Chicken Saute with Armagnac
from James Beard's Theory & Practice of Good Cooking

8 TBSP unsalted butter
4 half chicken breasts, wings attached
salt, freshly ground black pepper
6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Armagnac

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet and when the foaming stops add the chicken and saute over medium-high heat on both sides until golden. Season with salt and pepper to taste, reduce the heat, cover and cook gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken breasts are just cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a hot flameproof serving platter, or put in the top part of a chafing dish, and pour a little (about 2 TBSP) of the melted butter over it.

Add the shallots to the pan and cook them in the remaining butter until just limp and golden, stirring them so they do not brown. Beat the eggs and cream together lightly in a measuring cup or small bowl and stir into them a couple of tablespoons of the hot pan liquid, which tempers the yolks and prevents them from curdling when added to the pan. Pour the mixture into the pan and stir constantly over low heat until the sauce is well blended and slightly thickened. Do not allow it to get too hot or to boil or the eggs will curdle. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Heat the Armagnac in a small pan, ignite with a match, and pour blazing over the chicken. When the flames die down, spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Notes: This would be the first time that I ever intended to set something in the kitchen on fire. And it went beautifully. Plus, it was lots of fun. Of course, since we were only two for this meal, I made roughly half the amount of sauce and used a single whole chicken breast sans the wings.

I'm curious about whether doing something flambe actually changes the taste of the food. Or is it all just for show? Googling on it came up with some cautionary comments, at least: (1) Never pour from the bottle (the flame can follow the stream of alcohol into the bottle and cause it to explode), and (2) always ignite the fumes and never the liquid (this is why it needs to be heated first). And a search on the eGullet forums suggested that it's largely a fixture of culinary theatrics.

Posted by Jennifer at May 31, 2004 10:47 AM

I'm not sure if it's true, but I was told by a chef that it cooks off the alchohol (it evaporates) and leaves you with a strong taste, rather than cooking it off slowly and losing the taste.

Posted by: Jennifer at June 2, 2004 11:59 AM
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