Weeknight Cooking

Chicken Breast with Cream of Herb Sauce

January 16, 2012

Chicken Breast with Cream of Herb Sauce

- Jenny

I seem to have contracted one of those won’t-go-away illnesses, and with that, as you all know, come the craving for certain foods. I have soaked grilled cheese sandwiches in tomato soup, just as dad taught me to do when I was a small sick person. I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on toast, from my grandmother’s metal shaker. 

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Then, ready for something a little more substantial and faced with my weekly delivery of boneless chicken breasts, I decided to try Chicken Breast with Cream of Herb Sauce.

I had every ingredient on hand save the herbs, which required a trek to the supermarket down the street, the farthest I could stand to venture, where as I stood in line to pay, I had time to ponder many things:

Does anyone here realize these are not actually my pajamas? Should I say something?

Why am I still reading about Trista, that first Bachelorette, on magazine cover lines? Isn’t there a new Bachelorette and didn’t she already dump her rose ceremony guy? And wouldn’t it be cool if they had a hydrangea ceremony instead? 

How should I feel about the fact that this basil I am about to buy was imported from Israel?

So, back home and still in not-exactly-pajamas, I realized that my butcher gave me two small breasts this week, rather than the usual four, so I set out to halve this recipe. I still cut up two shallots, because I love them and because “average” is in the eye of the knife wielder. I put my chicken in the butter – that’s right kids, butter, because katierk’s favorite meal when she is home alone is stuffed fillet mignon, chicken and cream sauce, or lasagna. 

Next it was time to deglaze the pan and sauté up those shallots, and things started smelling delicious, in a very familiar way. Let me pause here to say I did not measure my wine; I just tossed some in the pan. You can do that too. Also, believe it or not, I do own xanthan gum, but I am afraid of it, so went with flour instead, and I do not own garlic powder, so I skipped that part. 

After that cooked up for a while, it was more wine (Riesling, which is what I had laying around and was perfect) and one cup of cream, which ended up creating too much sauce for two breasts, which cooked about 5 minutes in the pan, but that didn’t matter as I also made orzo, which soaked up the rest nicely. 

I sat down before my all white plate and was reminded of a giddy night years ago with Amanda at La Grenouille, where we ate pike quenelles Lyonnaise (white fish with white sauce) served with white rice, followed by, I believe, a dessert soufflé. (Beige.) We laughed at our plates, wondered dreamily about the flower budget of the restaurant, and praised our good fortune that someone else was paying for dinner. 

I had no preexisting comfort memory attached to this simple and lovely chicken by katierk, but I found one in the creamy, slightly acidic (thanks Riesling) and gently perfumed pleasure on my plate. 

Chicken Breast with Cream of Herb Sauce by katierk

Serves 4

4 pieces chicken breast
1 cup white wine
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2/3 cups fresh chopped chives
2 average shallots
salt to taste
1 tablespoon flour or xanthan gum
2 teaspoons butter
onion powder to taste
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves
10 ounces chicken stock

By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Photo by James Ransom

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Written by: Jestei

The ratio of people to cake is too big.


cakillgore January 22, 2012
I swear I want to eat the sauce as a soup! Kept in fridge for left overs, and ended up eating the sauce over pasta on it's own. YUMMY! thanks for this great tasty recipe.
Jestei January 23, 2012
what a great use of the sauce
abbyarnold January 22, 2012
The only garlic or onion powder worth having is from Penzey's, but their shallot salt and their dried shallots are to die for. We are lucky to have a Penzey's store in our Santa Monica downtown, but it is worth it to mail order from them.
Jestei January 23, 2012
yes i think there is one around here too. shallot salt wow.
orlenda January 22, 2012
well i have had a medical problem for 4 years now that has me partially bedridden, so i have been amassing a whole WARDROBE of pj's! its like an obsession now....at least its a comfy obsession.....

until i get better-ive been amassing a collection of recipes to try as well....for when i am better....this sounds interesting...def gonna add it to y collection....
Jestei January 26, 2012
great hope you like!!
MartyM January 22, 2012
I think this would also be really good with rosemary as the herb instead of chives and basil. Also, xantham gum needs another name. It doesn't sound like something you want to eat.
Jestei January 26, 2012
i am sure rosemary would be excellent yes
ramblinbob January 22, 2012
I would love to eat this, but I don't want to cook it. I usually don't cook things that include the phrase "reduce by half", and this recipe has two of them! The thing is, a pan that is just hot enough to brown chicken (in two teaspoons of butter, really?) without turning the outside all stringy and tough is not hot enough to reduce anything while you're watching it. Recipe should include instructions like "leave kitchen for 10 minutes" or in the case of the cream/stock mixture, maybe "go write a blog or something for 15 minutes". OTOH, one could turn the heat way up after removing the chicken and watch it every second. What could possibly go wrong? I have a feeling you'll find out when you put the chicken back in the pan and try to cook it through.
violist January 18, 2012
Jenny, get well soon. I've been a daily reader of the NYTimes for the last 43 years, and though you're a great cook, and I love your recipes, you're even BETTER at your day job!
Jestei January 26, 2012
aw thank you so much. i am really not a very good cook. just a good finder of others recipes!
Kitchen B. January 18, 2012
You never fail to bring a smile to my face Jenny. I hope you're back in the 'pink' soon - and isn't it just unfair of people to judge you by your not-exactly-pajamas-and-if-no-one-asks-i'm-not-telling-pants...., they are comfortable after all!
Jestei January 26, 2012
yes i agree. nice to see you here. xx
Fairmount_market January 17, 2012
Hope you feel better soon. We're battling a similar won't go away illness in our house. Creamy chicken sounds like a good antidote.
Jestei January 17, 2012
thank you. it does hang on this "thing"
mcs3000 January 17, 2012
Fab piece. You are at the top of your game, Jenny - even when sick. Feel better soon!
Jestei January 17, 2012
awwwwwww you're so nice. pick some fruit in my name there.
drbabs January 16, 2012
Hope you feel better soon. Xo
Jestei January 17, 2012
thanks friend xx oo
gt9 January 16, 2012
Jenny, hope you feel better soon...gonna make this this week. winter is arriving here.
Jestei January 17, 2012
i certainly hope you enjoy it out there!