Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27: Sauteed Chicken Breasts With Creamy Chive Sauce

When I was little, my grandmother had a million wild chive plants growing in her yard. I can still remember the smell of the backyard, the herbal, oniony sweetness that hung over the backyard from April until August. My grandmother would send me outside to get her a handful of chives to chop into salads, to stir into sour cream for a baked potato. I could smell the chives on my hands for hours afterwards.

Chives are coming into season right now, along with asparagus, artichokes, green garlic, peas, and other spring vegetables. Spring vegetables are great: they're light, they're fresh, they're springtime on a plate.

I've said before that I love chicken breasts for their blank-slate quality. If I were going to make it into a musical metaphor, chicken breasts are the cello behind the piccolo of a spring veggie. That's why I love the look of this recipe: the richness of a delicate, creamy sauce against the sweet herbal note of chives. I think that I would serve this with a spinach and garlic orzo with a little lemon and a little parmesan, and a crispy green salad, and a loaf of crispy bread to sop up the sauce.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts With Creamy Chive Sauce

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped chives (about 1 bunch)

Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow glass baking dish and dredge the chicken in it. Discard the excess flour.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.
Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour; stir to coat. Add wine, broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, stirring often.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until heated through and no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes. Stir in sour cream and mustard until smooth; turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Stir in chives and serve immediately.

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