I am going to speak for some length about the artichoke, an engaging little thistle I heretofore have more or less ignored, for a host of reasons I am about to explain, but have been completely turned around on thanks to Lemon Artichoke Chicken.
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My artichoke antipathy began from almost the first time I examined one with any serious consideration, which I feel relatively certain was during a meal at the TGI Fridays in the bottom of the Empire State Building. Even though, of course, that can't actually be true. But it was a restaurant. In New York.
As one friend pointed out over that dinner all those years ago, at what point did the human pick up this pointy, unattractive object and proclaim it food? It’s just not attractive.
Then, there is the whole laborious way of eating it with one’s front teeth, and the fact that so many restaurants choose to serve up it up with insipid sauces, a bit of a wet towel after a luke warm bath.
Further, I have been too intimidated to try them at home. Once while visiting California, a friend who cooks them often actually did a lovely steamed version, but in the process nearly destroyed one of my pots. Be off, artichoke!
But recently, irked by my inability to find something new to do with chicken breasts and feeling the need to share, I learned from a friend that she likes to dump some jarred artichokes, capers, garlic and some salt and pepper on hers, popped in the oven for 20 minutes or so.
This was a hit in my house, but I craved something slightly less virtuous, something that would pull chicken breasts, the ultimate culinary wallflower, on to the dance floor to do the oven-baked Single Ladies dance.
Now Lizthechef makes clear she has disdain for jarred artichoke hearts, and insists you use frozen ones here, a direction, I will confess ONLY TO YOU, that I almost ignored. But then I thought, well, she’s Lizthechef, I am Jenny the angry homecook, who am I to defy her? As it turns out, frozen artichoke hearts are indeed deeply superior to their jarred sisters, and you should buy a bunch immediately for your freezer.
So, this recipe lets all of you follow the Jenny drill to a T – come home, defrost those babies in the microwave (or leave them in the fridge while at work) and get that chicken into the pan. Now you may take your work shoes off, and pour a glass of wine. Once that chicken is browned up nicely, place it in your small oven-ready dish, being careful not to crowd the breasts.
If you are Jenny, you will have been unable to find Meyer lemons in Washington DC, which will have caused you to stand for a while in Whole Foods, thinking thoughts about lemons, which then will have led to musings about strawberries and all the rosemary you were able to get in Los Angeles in November, and pretty soon you will have begun to lament every life choice you’ve ever made and start crying.
If you are a person in full possession of your mental health, you will simply substitute Eureka lemons.
I didn’t really believe Lizthechef that I needed this much creme fraiche, so I added spoon by spoon by spoon, and probably used close to what she called for. I would say this is to taste. Watch your chicken once it hits the oven, as the cooking times may vary according to the thickness of your meat and your oven.
You will want to serve this nice and warm, which in my case meant right from the dish, because the fatty goodness of the cream and the tangy kick of the artichoke give the best bang that way. Serve it with some crusty bread.
2. Pound chicken breasts to even thickness of 1/2 inch. Salt and pepper both sides of each breast.
3. Melt the butter in a large skillet.
4. Over medium heat, brown the chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.
5. Transfer chicken to 9 X 11 ceramic or glass baking dish. Cover the chicken with the artichoke hearts.
6. Add the sherry, lemon zest and juice to juices in the frying pan. Stir over medium heat until hot, several minutes. Add the creme fraiche. Remove from heat and pour over chicken and artichokes.
7. Sprinkle with cheese and panko.
8. Bake 20-25 minutes, until hot and bubbling.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).