When the snowstorm hit on Monday, the roads and the people on them became dangerous almost instantly. People were sliding everywhere, driving either way too slow or too fast, slamming on the brakes, transforming our town into an open bumper car course of stupid. The last place Neil or I wanted to be was among them.
After a white-knuckle commute home, we opened the fridge to see what we could throw together for dinner. A carton of cream, some organic chicken, and a lonely bottle of unopened New Year’s champagne stared back at us.
Cream sauces are typically “once and a while” fare for us. They’re obviously heavier and when you’re doing everything humanly possible to combat your sedentary desk job, cream sauce is not by your side on the treadmill cheering you on. But our hunger called for some major improvisation, and desperate times called for…champagne?
4 chicken breasts
1 bottle of champagne
1/2 cup butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shalots, chopped
1 cup of chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon cayenne (we actually used about 3 teaspoons dried red chile peppers)
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 tsp rosemary
1 pound spaghetti or fettuccine noodles, prepared according to instructions
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated to taste
1. Place chicken in a container and cover with 1/2 bottle of champagne. Allow to marinate for 20-30 minutes.
2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet. Add shallots and garlic and brown. Add remaining butter and each chicken breast and brown, cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side. Add the remaining champagne from the bottle and chicken broth, as well as half of the marjoram, rosemary and cayenne pepper and cook for 15-20 minutes.
3. Remove chicken and place in a container to keep warm. Add cream to the pan along with the rest of the spices, bring to a boil then cook to reduce. If necessary, add a little flour whisked in a tablespoon or two of water to moisten.
When sauce has reduced, return chicken to the skillet and heat and coat with sauce. Serve over noodles with additional cracked pepper and freshly grated parmigiano.
Amazing? Of course. Delightfully creamy, a little sweet, but best of all it maintained a lot of the smooth bubbly taste and texture. We probably could have slashed the butter in half, but we were experimenting with the desire to still have something to eat on the other side, so we overcompensated a bit out of fear we wouldn’t net ourselves enough of a cream sauce and it would more like paper cement.
We really had fun playing our own game of Iron Chef while the snow trapped us inside. I highly recommend this as a dish to entertain with! It’s relatively easy and cooking with champagne or a unique ingredient is always a means to get the conversation started.
Do you ever cook with freak ingredients?