Monday, August 2, 2010

Chicken to Impress--Mission Impossible

Part 1

Who serves chicken these days and can impress anyone with the result? Impossible.

Last year, during a visit to London, I had a luck to dine at a three Michelin star restaurant. I read that booking at such a highly recommended place should be made long in advance so I did not really hope to get a table there straight from the street especially on a Saturday night. Even though it was November and the rain was pouring even beyond British tolerance, streets were full of people going out (like me).

It was impossible to catch a taxi so I decided to walk. With some difficulty and guidance from several Indian vendors I found the renowned restaurant I had read about in the restaurant guide. It was located on a tiny one-way street. I walked in just out of sheer curiosity at least to see the interior.

The restaurant did not seem to be full, but in fact it was completely booked. Luckily, the girl who asked if I had the reservation happened to be Polish and, for once, the Polish connection worked for me--someone cancelled at the last moment and the waitress was sweet enough to offer me that place.

I have recently read on Delicious Days that, if we plan to review a restaurant, it is good to sleep over our thoughts, in order to be objective and to calm our emotions. I have slept on my impressions for almost ten months and I believe I am now ready to share them with the world.

I was offered a fixed menu that included a chicken as a main course. I was very happy about that as I have always been curious to find out how the world famous cooks are able to change something so ordinary into a culinary poetry.

Unfortunately, I am sorry to admit, the whole meal was very prosaic and not only for a restaurant rewarded with three Michelin stars but any reputable culinary place. The least interesting part was the chicken itself, or rather the hen. Even if this free-range bird was hand-massaged and volunteered to give up his life to be my dinner, it still was one of the most ordinary, dull, and fibrous poultry I had ever eaten. It had no taste and on top of that it was served with a very bland rice.

I left this restaurant truly disappointed. After this experience I concluded that it was impossible, even for a top culinary institution, to impress anyone by serving chicken for dinner. But...

Part 2

...there was a time in my life, when I first moved to DC, I was brave enough to serve chicken, even at dinner parties. I still think there are in my recipe book at least three chicken dishes that are able to impress many guests. In my opinion, chicken in basil sauce is certainly one of them. It used to be a dish that people asked me about the most. I got it from my friend in Geneva and I think that the recipe could come from England, where she had lived for a couple of years.

I hope it will deserve at least one star in your rating. The taste of this dish comes mainly from the basil sauce. Next time you decide to serve chicken, please try this one and judge for yourself if a humble chicken can impress anyone, or is this mission impossible.

Chicken Breasts in Basil Sauce

6 chicken breast fillets or 8-10 breast tenderloins,
1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs,
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese,
3 stripes of lean bacon cut into small pieces,
2 tbsp of soft butter,
2 garlic cloves finely chopped,
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce,
1 tsp mustard,
salt and pepper.

1. Heat the oven to 375F.
2. Mix butter, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper.
3. Rub breasts in that sauce and arrange in an oven proof dish.
4. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and bacon, and sprinkle them over the breasts.
5. Put the the dish in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, for breasts it could be slightly longer than for tenderloins

While meat is baking prepare the green sauce.

Basil Sauce:
1/3 cup olive oil,
1/4 white vinegar,
2 garlic cloves
1 cup fresh basil leaves,
1/3 cup extra heavy whipping cream,
salt pepper to taste.

1. Put all the ingredients in a food blender and puree until obtain a smooth sauce.
2. Transfer the sauce to the pan and heat carefully, until hot. Do not allow it to boil as the basil will change color from green to brownish.
3. Pour over baked breasts and serve.

This dish tastes excellent with roasted baby potatoes or cooked rice.

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