If you've yet to book a restaurant table for the mother in your life, or if you prefer to fete her at home for Mother's Day, you'll want something tasty and elegant, but more or less foolproof—something like Carla Hall's recipe for Chicken in Dijon Cream, from her new book, Carla's Comfort Foods.
The book is less about clichés of macaroni and cheese and more about, as Hall says, "food that I find memorable, food that I might have had in my own home, or in friends' homes, and the kinds of foods that families make for each other without even thinking about it, because that's how they show love. I eat in restaurants a lot and have beautifully presented meals, but what I find myself craving is something homey, that has a story about the people behind it."
Hall, a former model, was a contender on Bravo's Top Chef TV series and is now a co-host on ABC's The Chew, alongside chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon. After working as a chef at Washington, D.C.'s Henley Park Hotel, State Plaza Hotel and The Washington Club, she spent many years at the helm of her own catering company, which in recent years has given way to a baking company, Carla Hall Petite Cookies, specializing in the bite-sized cookies she would send to catering clients as thank-you gifts.
On Mother's Day, Hall and her sister plan to cook for their mother. "My dad was the cook in our house, but when I was growing up, my mom was the queen of pancakes, and my sister and I became the princesses of pancakes," recalls Hall.
The chicken recipe shared below would make a wonderful Mother's Day lunch or dinner. "When I first visited France, I didn't taste anything like this ... I was so into the lardon salads that I didn't try many other things," Hall says. "Since then, I've had fuller French dining experiences. Now, when I dig into this creamy sauce, with mustard and wine perfectly balancing the richness, I feel like I'm in Paris again."
Serve this with the best-quality baguette you can find, a crisp salad of spring greens dressed with vinaigrette, and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, whose juicy, citrusy notes will serve as a great foil for the sauce's creamy richness, while the light herbal qualities build a bridge to the thyme and tarragon accents.
Recipe Copyright © 2014 by Carla Hall from Carla's Comfort Foods, published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1. On a large cutting board, place the chicken between sheets of wax paper. Pound with a meat mallet, rolling pin or heavy skillet until the meat is an even 1/2 inch in thickness. Season the chicken generously with salt.
2. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Coat with the oil, then add the butter. When the butter is foamy but not brown, add half the chicken, smooth side down. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Then carefully flip the chicken over and cook until nicely browned but not cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken, reheating the pan and replenishing the oil and butter if necessary.
3. Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring and scraping up the browned bits, until just soft, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, then add the stock. Simmer for 1 minute.
4. Whisk in the mustard and cook, stirring, until the mustard is well incorporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the cream and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer and then slide in the chicken and the accumulated juices. Partially cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the thyme and tarragon, and serve hot. Serves 4.
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