MUSTARD CHICKEN WITH A FRENCH ACCENT


Baked chicken breasts in a creamy sauce.

The moon waxes gibbous, the first fireflies greet the twilight with a luminous ballet on a stage set with clouds of white roses. Ha Motzie, the half pure Siamese cat plays in the shadows, hoping to fly as high as the fireflies, certain that if she fails, she will be chasing voles by the light of the moon. The evening is so still one can hear the creek sing its way to the river. In the garden, gooseberries ripen, peas grow fat and the first salad greens are ready for harvesting. In world filled with troubling news, evenings such as these are cause for celebration and in
my corner of the woods, celebrations involve cook and sharing food.
Long ago, in the country where I grew up, celebratory meals centered on succulent free range chicken that had been allowed to soak in the flavors of shallots, garlic, black pepper and cilantro. On holidays, good hostess would instruct their cooks to soak whole capons in a molho made from lager and aromatics. Thus anointed, they birds would be sent to the baker, who seemed to welcome a change from his daily preparation of countless baguettes.
Free range chickens, personal chefs and obliging bakers are as accessible to me as the fireflies are to earthbound Ha Motzie. Nevertheless, the baked chicken I prepare on firefly evenings is quite tasty. What I do is tweak a recipe for Poulet a la Moutarde by rubbing two skinless skinless chicken breasts with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence prior to slathering them with Dijon-style mustard. Then I place the chicken breasts in an ovenproof dish, carefully add cup of heavy cream–it is important not to wash away the mustard–and half a cup of white wine. I bake the chicken for forty minutes at 350F. C’est tout, except for a salad, roasted new potatoes and freshly baked rice rolls, of which more anon.
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