Monday, December 31, 2012

Mushrooms as a bed for chicken

Winter is here alright. I know, you're thinking, "you're in California. How bad can it be?" Well, it's cold for us, ok? It got down to 34 degrees last night and there was frost on everything this morning. This kind of weather is perfect for a meal that makes us toasty warm. Chicken on a bed of mushrooms.

Oh, I hated mushrooms as a kid. All slimy and rubbery and moldy. Ick! I’m even still repulsed to this day when I go out into the yard and unearth the weird and wacky specimens that are freely popping up in my lawn. I have to wear gloves – I can’t seem to touch them with my bare hands.

My taste for mushrooms waxes and wanes. Sometimes I like them, other times I don’t. I guess it’s kind of a love/hate relationship, but this is the time of year when I want them.  Their chewy texture and meaty taste adds heartiness to otherwise bland dishes. Their woodsy nature makes them pair especially well with herbs. It’s as if you were going out into the forest. There is something so earthy about mushrooms that makes them ideal to appreciate in the winter.

So I was craving a dish with mushrooms and began searching the archives (i.e., cookbooks). I hadn’t looked in my Silver Palate cookbook in a while and was delighted when lo and behold I found “Chicken with Mushrooms”. How perfect to use mushrooms to boost the flavor of chicken. It is easy to make, although the soaking of the dried mushrooms calls for a 2 hour time span, I don’t know that you can’t achieve this in 30-60 minutes. If you have time, you can certainly go with 2 hours. I went with 1.

If you do an internet search for Silver Palate Chicken with Mushrooms recipe, you’ll find quite a number of sites featuring it. Clearly a popular and much-loved dish over the years. People are in love with it.  You can make this dish with some degree of certainty that it will be one you go to over and over again.

Chicken on a bed of mushrooms

1/2 cup chicken broth
2/3 ounce dried wild mushrooms, thoroughly rinsed under running water,and drained (such as cepes, morels, etc, all one kind or a mix)
1/3 lb fresh cultivated mushroom, wiped clean with damp paper towel (button)
3 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely-chopped shallot (or 3 green onions, finely-chopped, plus 1 T minced garlic)
2/3 to taste salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup medium port wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

a few tsp. chopped fresh parsley

In a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil; pour over the wild mushrooms in a small bowl and let stand for about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thinly slice cleaned mushroom caps, discarding stems.
In a skillet over medium to medium-to-low heat, melt butter and gently saute shallots or onion/garlic mixture for about 5 minutes (do not brown).
Drain liquid from wild mushrooms and reserve.
Finely chop the wild mushrooms and add them and the fresh mushrooms to the skillet with the shallots (or onion/garlic mixture) and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 7- 10 minutes.
Add the reserved mushroom liquid, Port, and cream to the skillet and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Pour mushroom mixture into a shallow baking dish and arrange chicken breast halves in a single layer on top of the mushrooms.
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake in the middle level of the oven for about 25- 30 minutes, until chicken is done.

Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley.
Serves 4.


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