Thanks to the strenuous workload of graduate courses, research and teaching. My food blog entries were as dead as Friedrich Nietzsche’s definition of God from his book “Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science)”. Now that my graduate school obligations are temporarily over, it’s time to resuscitate my contributions of blog entries to Phood Journal.
Perhaps it’s an appropriate time to talk about breasts…chicken breasts…
To be honest, breasts are not my favorite part on a chicken. My order of preference when I am, say, given a half-serving of chicken or any poultry/game bird is thighs, legs, wings and breasts. I am fully aware that health and fitness buffs will contend with me but chicken breasts tend to have a very dry and bland texture. It doesn’t help too if the chicken bought from the market turns out to be an old and ailing chicken because the meat can be VERY tough. To open some gastronomic scars of my childhood, I found myself having a difficult time chewing and swallowing, and to some point would prefer regurgitating, the meat of the black chicken boiled in some weird Chinese plant extracts not because of the bitter taste coming from whatever alkaloid or natural product is found on that soup but rather the texture of the breast meat is just too DAMN dry and bland.
Then again, the chicken breast should not shoulder the blame for its taste and texture. Its prolonged exposure from the heat of braising, boiling or roasting has to compromise with the duration of completely cooking the softer, fattier and juicier red meat found on the thighs and the legs. The rule of thumb of treating chicken breasts (or any breast coming from any poultry or gamebird) with love is that you DO NOT OVERCOOK them UNLESS they come with the other parts. Plus, time is an advantage too for graduate students like me because the length of preparation can only take 15-25 minutes especially if you are aware of the “cooking parameters” that will maintain the juicy and exquisite taste and softer texture.
Paraphrasing French cuisine from Julia Child, the raw breast of a chicken is classified according to the presence of the wing, skin and the bone. If the upper part of the wing is present, then the entire slab is called a “côtelette” or simply (in English) the cutlet or the chop of the chicken. If the breast comes both skinless and boneless, then the chicken breast is called a suprême. However, a suprême is NOT ALWAYS a suprême because the definition of a suprême encompasses the cooking time and hence the taste and the texture of the flesh. If the “suprême” is overcooked, it becomes nothing more but the bland, dry and tough white chicken meat – similar to a prolonged chemical reaction that leads to an undesirable product. Instead, an actual suprême should be cooked in 205°C (400°F) for 6-8 minutes only – NOTHING LONGER NOR HOTTER.
Based on my first experience of cooking and eating a homemade suprême, the final grade that can be given to a suprême borderlines between “E” and “F” for EXQUISITE and FANTASTIC respectively. Cooking is also short and simple that the anticipation of eating can only be delayed by the preparation of the sauce. The flesh is white in color just like your white chicken meat. However, the taste is so juicy and the texture is so soft that it’s like eating the drumsticks and thighs – my conventional favorite parts on a chicken.
I think from now on, the breast (in the form of a suprême) has become my GUILTY PLEASURE.
Chicken Suprêmes Recipe (taken from “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking” by Julia Child)
4 fillets of chicken breasts, boned and skinned
4 tablespoons of butter
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven at 205°C (400°F).
2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Set aside.
3. While the chicken is being marinated, melt the butter on a skillet or a flame-proof casserole under medium to high heat until the butter starts to foam and bubble. (Optional: The foam can be removed by scraping with a spoon giving the clarified form of butter.)
4. Roll the chicken breasts in butter QUICKLY and remove the skillet or casserole from heat.
5. Cover the breast with wax paper or aluminum foil.
6. Place the skillet or casserole inside the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and transfer the breasts immediately to a warm platter. The leftover butter in the skillet or casserole can be used to prepare the sauce of your liking.