Kitchen Basics Workshop - Week 4 of 5

Pin It Hello, friends. It's Ginny (again) from Cooking with Chopin, Living with Elmo.
This is my fourth workshop in a series of five. These workshops rather build upon each other. So if you missed the first three topics (Meal Planning, Pantry Stocking and Basic Meals, and Kitchen Efficiency), please go back and read through them if you can.

Today I will share a few basic cooking tips and techniques I have tucked away in my apron pockets.


Trying a new recipe? Great! Just be sure to read it completely before beginning. I usually read through new recipes TWICE before I start. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of a recipe for a swiftly-approaching dinnertime and seeing "allow meat to marinate for at least 4 hours" in the method.

Difference between boiling and simmering? Believe it or not, there IS a difference. This is a very common cooking no-no. Boiling something that should be simmered can result in tough or dry food. A simmer occurs when a bubble "lazily" breaks the surface every few seconds. A "rolling" or "vigorous" boil happens when bubbles are constantly breaking the surface.

Don't overcrowd the pan: Julia Child famously taught us this as she was sauteing mushrooms. Food releases moisture as it sautes. If you begin with too much in the pan, the meat (or veggies) won't have enough contact with the pan to get that delicious golden crust that lends a rich flavor on its own or to stews, roasts, and sauces.

Speaking of getting a delicious golden crust on meat, I'd like to show you a basic technique: sauteing chicken breasts and then making a sauce.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts: this is my go-to "I'm-in-such-a-hurry" meal - sauteed chicken breasts (with or without a sauce), steamed veggies and a salad.
Here we go...

Trim skin, if necessary.

Slice each breast in half lengthwise

(You don't have to do this, but it helps it cook more quickly.)

Pound between sheets of plastic wrap for even thickness
(which contributes to even cooking times).

I like to lay a sheet of plastic wrap on my cutting board, put the meat on the wrap, cover with another sheet of wrap, and TUCK the edges of the wrap underneath my cutting board...

Like this...

This way, no nasty chicken juices will escape and freak me out as they microscopically infect my kitchen counter.

Now pound the suckers...

Please excuse my gross-looking mallet.

It's made several trips unauthorized through the dishwasher...hence the white dots.

Blot meat dry with a paper towel.

Moist meat does not brown well.

Dredge (coat) in flour.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.

Saute chicken in olive oil until nicely browned on each side;

about 3-5 minutes per side on medium-high heat.

(If you're paranoid, cut into a piece to check for doneness.)

Resist the urge to flip it too soon.

Good things are happening to the side you cannot see.

I like to use this ancient spatula to flip the chicken.

Gently wedge the spatula under the meat and flip.

After the meat has browned on both sides (again, cut through a piece if you are concerned about doneness), move the chicken to a clean plate and cover it with foil to keep warm.

You can stop here.
These sauteed chicken breasts are very tasty just as they are.
Or you can forge on and make a sauce.
Today I'm making an orange-rosemary sauce.
You can modify these steps with many different ingredients to make a wide variety of sauces. The basic technique stays the same.
Important: don't scrub out the brown bits of goodness from the bottom of the pan you sauteed the chicken in! These are the keys to a delicious sauce.
While the chicken was sauteing, I minced some fresh rosemary leaves. But feel free to substitute the dried version. Just use a little less.

Remove the leaves from the tough stem. Then mince the leaves.

I'm also going to use a scallion.
This one wasn't particularly lovely (they should be more purple),but it was all I had on hand. Kids were sleeping. You know how it goes.

Peel off the papery skin and slice it thinly.

Use your thumb to "punch" the scallions into pretty little rings.

See all that yumminess on the bottom of the pan? Mmmmm.

Toss in the rings. You might have to add a splash or two of olive oil.

Add liquid for sauce (low-sodium broth, vinegars, wine, etc.).

I'm adding orange juice here.

Now, while I was fighting with my camera to take that pic of the OJ
(it wouldn't focus!),

some of the scallion slices were burning.

But I'm not worried about it.

And you shouldn't be, either.

'Cause it's going to happen.

Especially if you have kids in the kitchen with you.

Just roll on.

Add the OJ.

Add two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and the minced rosemary.

Now I'm going to "deglaze" the pan.

Deglazing is just a fancy term for scraping up the browned bits of meat and juice from the bottom and incorporating them into the liquid.

Crank up the heat and start whisking away!

See those bubbles? You want the sauce to boil in this step.

Really get into it. Use the whisk to scrape the bottom of the pan to liberate the brown bits.

Because look what will happen.

In the picture below, I'm tilting the pan so you can see that all of the brown bits which were previously stuck on the bottom are no longer a clean-up nightmare.

They have been incorporated into the sauce.

Add some brown sugar.

This little unassuming fellow may very well be the most important piece
of cooking equipment in your kitchen.

Never underestimate the power of the tasting spoon.

Taste the sauce. Does it need salt? More brown sugar?

You're the cook!

You're in charge!

Earlier, before I began sauteing the chicken, I "zested" an orange.

"Zesting" is a means by which you remove the flavorful peeling of citrus fruit without picking up the more bitter pith (the white part).

I LOVE my zester. I also use it for grating cheese and nutmeg.

This shot with the truck and the sweet baby finger was not staged.

This is my [wonderful] life. :)

Gently run the zester over the orange. Be sure the orange has been well-washed AND well-dried.

Moist citrus does not zest well.

Back to the sauce.

Keep cooking it over medium-high heat until it's thick and bubbly.

Some of the liquid will evaporate, causing the sauce to "reduce."

Add in the orange zest during the last few minutes of cooking.

(See how the sauce is darker in the picture below? That's another common element of reduction.)

(TIP: You should end up with less liquid than what you poured in. I have found that sauces reduce better when I have dredged the chicken in flour and then use the same skillet for making my sauce. Flour causes the sauce to thicken. If the sauce isn't thickening for you, mix a few pinches of cornstarch with a little bit (a teaspoon or two) of water to make a paste. Add the paste to the sauce. Keep doing it in TINY increments until the sauce thickens.)

Pour sauce over meat...

And serve.


This is so good.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Orange-Rosemary Sauce

Serves 4

3 boneless chicken breasts, skin removed and sliced in half lengthwise

1/2 cup of flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)

1 large scallion, chopped into thin slices and separated into rings

1 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced (or substitute dried rosemary)

2 teaspoons zested orange peel

salt and pepper to taste

To saute the chicken:

Cut chicken breasts in half. Pound lightly with a mallet and then pat dry with a paper towel. Mix salt and pepper with the flour. Place flour mixture on a large plate. Dredge the meat in the flour (just lightly pat the meat into the flour, coating it on all sides). Discard flour and set meat aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully sprinkle a drop of water in the oil. If/when it sizzles, the oil is hot enough.

Add the chicken to the skillet, being mindful to not crowd the pan. Saute the chicken in two batches if you need to. But use the same pan to cook both batches of chicken if you will make the sauce.

Saute chicken about 3-5 minutes on one side. Then gently "pry" it up from the pan with a large spatula, flip it, and saute it for another 3-5 minutes. (Don't flip the chicken too soon.) If you are concerned that the chicken isn't done, cut into a piece. Once chicken is done, remove it to a clean plate and cover with foil to keep it warm.

To make the sauce:

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. (DO NOT WASH THE PAN OUT AFTER YOU SAUTE THE CHICKEN.) Saute the scallion over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it begins to turn brown, about 4-5 minutes.

To deglaze the pan, pour in the orange juice. Then add the mustard, brown sugar, and rosemary. Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk very well, intentionally scraping up the brown bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook and whisk for 5-7 minutes or so, until the sauce begins to "reduce" and darken in color. (It will be thick and bubbly.) Add in the orange peel and cook for a minute more. Add salt and pepper to taste (be sure to use that tasting spoon!).

Pour sauce over chicken breasts and serve.

Recipe adapted from here.

Can you believe how long that post was? Are you soaking your scrolling finger in ice water?!

But I hope you can see that recipe isn't hard. Please give it a try!

I'll "see" you next week for the final workshop.

We'll talk about a few more kitchen tips, trusty kitchen equipment,

and the power of bringing your family around the table.


Sarah said...

In your recipe you say scallions, but your picture shows shallots. I'm just curious which you really meant, and if you think one had a better flavor. Can't wait to try this! Yummy!

Lil Mama Stuart said...

thanks for the subtle tips! and the recipe - stashing away in my pile

Ginny said...

Sarah! You totally busted me! I messed up. Yes. I should have said "shallots", not "scallions."

I haven't tried it with scallions, but I'm sure it would be yummy, too.

Thanks for catching that!

Lilianna Grace said...

Awesome! This looks fantastic. I love anything with a sauce :)

sherrybluemoonluck said...

this is a really easy and delicious recipe--my son and husband loved it and want me to add it to my list of favorites! :)