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French Bistro Dinner for Four: Pommes Anna and Bistro Chicken with Port Wine-Mushroom Sauce

Recipe: French Bistro Dinner for Four: Pommes Anna and Bistro Chicken with Port Wine-Mushroom Sauce

Remarks:

    This recipe arose out of what I called my "French Bistro Rut" in early 2005. I had been eating regularly at French bistro restaurants, creating French bistro meals at home and, in my spare time, reading about classic French bistro cooking. This meal was created during that time. I've decided to share the whole meal with you. If I share just the meat portion of the meal, you'll miss the ambience of the bistro feel. The chicken dish is the new creation. The pommes Anna is a classic French potato dish; this is just my Zola take on pommes Anna. The broccoli is just there to round the meal out and give you your daily veggie intake. You can make the chicken dish with veal if you choose. The whole meal is timed so you can do it on one temperature in a single oven and easily entertain guests while you cook. Substitute green beans for the broccoli if you want. And if you want to be "really French," use haricot vert (the thin French green beans); just shorten the cooking time by one-third on the beans or they will be wilted beyond repair.

    Enjoy and-as the French would say-bon appétit!

Servings:
Serves 4.

Ingredients:

    Pommes Anna
    3 large Idaho baking potatoes, peeled
    1 small yellow or white onion, diced
    1 stick (1/2 cup) butter melted
    Salt and pepper

    Bistro Chicken with Port-Mushroom Sauce

    Chicken:
    1/2 cup cracker or crouton crumbs (Pick your favorite flavor.)
    1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
    3 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
    Salt and pepper to taste
    4 boneless chicken breast halves
    1/2 cup melted butter
    2 tsp olive oil
    1/2 lemon

    Port Wine Mushroom Sauce
    2 shallots, diced
    1 tsp butter
    1 tsp olive oil
    6 oz sliced button mushrooms
    1 tsp flour
    1/2 cup port wine
    1 cup half and half
    1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Broccoli or Green Beans
    1 head fresh broccoli OR ...
    40 fresh green beans
    Olive oil
    Salt and pepper

Instructions:

    Pommes Anna
    Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. The French would use two classic pieces of equipment to make this dish: a casserole dish and a mandoline slicer. The casserole can be any kind you like. I use a rectangular one that my mother used for making scalloped potatoes. You can even use a metal pan in a pinch. A mandoline slicer is a dream machine. I use mine often. I prefer the inexpensive ones. They cost about $15 US. You want your potatoes sliced very thinly-one-sixteenth of an inch if possible. VERY thin. I put my slicer on the thinnest setting. Be careful. Don't cut yourself. If you are doing this by hand just do your best. Until I bought a mandoline I just did my best. It's good practice. Slice your first potato and start your assembly. As your potatoes are waiting their turn, it's a good idea to soak them in water so they don't turn brown.

    When the first potato is sliced, grease the bottom of your pan. Put a layer of the slices in the bottom and then sprinkle lightly with a bit of the onion and then sprinkle with pepper and salt and a bit of drizzled butter. You are going to continue this layering process with two layers of potatoes, a little butter, a little salt and pepper, onion and on and on until you finish up all of your potatoes. You don't want to run out of butter, so don't drown your potatoes as you go along. Don't overdo it with the salt and pepper either. The French will use a bit more than most but, if you are on a salt-restricted diet, take it very easy.

    When all potatoes and onions are layered, cover your creation with aluminum foil. Start your baking. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Then take off the aluminum foil.

    (Note: The potatoes need to bake for an hour total. This menu and recipes are set up to time things so your chicken and veggies are ready to put in the oven with the potatoes, after the potatoes have been baking for 45 minutes. Then continue baking all three dishes for 15-20 more minutes. Your next step now is ...)

    At the 30-minute point start preparing your chicken.

    Bistro Chicken with Port?Mushroom Sauce

    Chicken:
    You'll want to make cracker crumbs. If you've had a bad day, just take crackers and put them in a baggie and smash them. I use a full can of soup or broth if I don't have a handy rolling pin. Croutons make good crumbs for this dish too. Take out your aggressions on the crackers. What flavor of crumbs you choose will make a slight difference in the dish, but why limit yourself to soup crackers? If you are doing low-carb, use whole wheat crackers. You choose.

    Mix the cracker crumbs, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper on a large plate. Put the first half cup of melted butter on a smaller plate. You are setting up an assembly line.

    One at a time, place each chicken breast in a plastic bag. Use the same soup can or a meat mallet to flatten the chicken breast to less than one-half inch in thickness. Just squish down the fattest parts so it will cook faster and spread it out. Try to keep the extra piece (the tenderloin) that sticks off still attached, but don't worry if it falls off. When one breast is squished, take it out of the bag, roll it in the butter and then put it in the crumb mixture and turn it over. You want to coat both sides. Press it down so you get crumbs and cheese mixture all over. Then do the next breast, and then do it again until you get all 4 ready to go.

    Now heat the olive oil in your large sauté pan. Put in all 4 breasts. Cook on Medium High just 3 to 5 minutes until you get the first side nicely browned. Turn over. Brown the second side. When all 4 breasts are browned on both sides, you're ready for the oven. If your sauté pan is okay to put in the oven, you can just pop them in. If the handle is not oven proof you'd better put them in another pan. A 9 by 13 oven-proof pan will do just fine. Squeeze the lemon over the chicken and pop the pan in the oven. You'll finish baking the chicken with the potatoes. The chicken will only take 15 to 20 minutes at 425 degrees to cook because you've already partially cooked it in the sauté pan and because you flattened it to make it cook faster.

    Now start your veggie (broccoli or green beans) and the sauce.

    Broccoli or Green Beans
    Clean the broccoli and cut it into florets or cut the ends off the beans. Plan on about 6 to 8 florets per person for broccoli or 10 beans per person.

    Drizzle with olive oil and put them in an oven-proof pan. You can season with salt and pepper if you like and put them in the same oven as your chicken and pommes Anna for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. They will roast the last 15 minutes with the chicken and the potatoes so your chicken, potatoes and veggies are all done at the same time.

    Port Wine Mushroom Sauce
    Heat your butter and olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add shallots. Cook over medium heat until the shallots just begin to cook. Add mushrooms. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add flour and port. Cook quickly to boil off half of the port, and then add the half and half. This sauce will thicken up fast, so turn down the heat and add the nutmeg. The only trick to this is to try to time the sauce thickening to when your chicken is about done. But don't worry. If the sauce seems too thick before your chicken is done, just turn it off. When the chicken is coming out of the oven, let it sit on the counter and add a little more half and half to your sauce, then turn the sauce back on Medium Low and reheat the sauce until it's at a consistency you like. Then serve. The potatoes and chicken are so hot at 425 degrees when they come out of the oven, they can use a few minutes to cool anyway. The beans or broccoli can wait in the oven with the door cracked open and the oven off.

    Final pointers . . .
    After the 15 minutes of baking time, check one piece of the chicken by cutting into it at the fattest point. If you don't see any pink, you are ready to eat and you can put on the sauce. The potatoes should have a nice brown crust around the edges and be hot and buttery. The veggies should be done but slightly crisp and might have a roasted, darkened edge on some of the veggies, but this comes with roasting. They'll taste fine.

Serving Suggestions:

Enjoy!

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