Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Menu: Overreaching (Poached Chicken with Buerre Blanc, Broccoli with Mornay and Pumpkin Bread Pudding)

We were having folks over for the season premiere of Heroes last night. I went a little overboard...

The menu:
Mixed Greens with White Wine Vinaigrette
Poached Chicken with Lemon-Tarragon Buerre Blanc
Broccoli with Mornay Sauce
Pumpkin Bread Pudding

The meta reason for this blog really pushed me here. I realized I had been light on content this past week, an indication that I had not been getting in the kitchen like I should. So, I was looking to catch up a bit.

Ugh. Not my best moment in menu planning. The two biggest issues were 1) I made a sit down meal - and a fancy sit-down meal at that - for what should have been casual, on the couch fare 2) I didn't get done until 8:45 when we were planning on an 8:00 start.

I put this one together after going through the latest issue of Gourmet and last week's Good Eats section in the Trib while on the train. The Trib section highlight was an offering of 10 recipes for chicken breasts, the first of which had a buerre blanc, the sauce I didn't get to make hands on last week in Sauce class. If that isn't a sign...

The bread pudding addressed a few things: 1) we had a lot of stale bread from the last dinner. Those artisian loaves, even from Jewel, have only a one day freshness in those paper/cello bags and I'm really tired of wasting those 2) on Top Chef a few weeks ago, Tre was kicked off for screwing up a bread pudding, which everyone called easy. So I had to see how easy it really was. 3) Channing likes it.

I thought I could crank this whole mess out in the 60 minutes, which if I didn't have to prep, I probably could have made. Also, I can't talk when I cook - my short-term memory is just too crappy. Fortunately, I didn't attempt the cookies I was thinking about.

While a bit late and too formal, it went okay, overall. A B/B-, I think. The execution errors were small; the buerre blanc broke and one of the chicken breasts was underdone. The points off are not for the actual food quality this time.

Le blow by blow (to be moved to individual recipe entries once I post those):

While it's hard to mess up a vinaigrette, this batch was quite good. I cut the mustard (the Terrapin Ridge Cracked Pepper-Lemon-Thyme again) to 1/2 part, with 1 part white wine vinegar and 3 parts olive oil. So, I kept the taste from last time, just dampend to a smoother level. I think that doctoring it up with a little fresh pepper, lemon juice and thyme would be nice next time.

The mornay sauce went well. It seemed to be a bit thin, but after adding the swiss cheese, it turned out just right.

Poaching the chicken turned out really, really nice. I've done this for salmon before, but this never occurred to me. I think this would be much, much better for salads. It was very tender and it's easy. It's impossible to burn, of course. The super-thick chicken breasts are the bane of my existence in general and, in this case, one of them turned out under done.

The buerre blanc was both a failure and a success. I made two significant errors here. The first was not adding the lemon and tarragon until after the shallot/white wine reduction (though that seemed to reduce down decently - maybe it wasn't a bad mistake after all). The second, for sure, was that I forgot to reduce the heat when adding the cold butter. Not surprisingly, the sauce completely broke. However, it tasted amazing. This is spectacular stuff.

The bread pudding was as easy as its reputation. This turned out really nicely. Next time, I will try to use fresher bread (one day old), as this was really, really, really stale, but overall, this was a very successful effort.

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