Boneless chicken breasts are one of those things I cope with for the sake of my relationship. If I had my way, you'd never see them in my fridge or freezer: I find them flavorless and boring (unless breaded and fried -- no complaints about homemade chicken fingers from this lady). But D loves those chicken breasts -- especially when coated in cornflakes and eaten with applesauce -- so once in a while, I throw some on the stove or in the oven and call it dinner. I try to make 'em interesting, though I should mention that in doing so, I've ruined several perfectly boring but fine chicken breasts with bad-tasting sauce. Tonight, however, was one of those nights when the boneless chicken breasts found themselves on both of our plates, topped with a sauce that was pretty darn delicious, and I thanked my lucky stars that I'd given D yet another chicken fix while making something that I also enjoyed eating.
My recipe is loosely based on a recipe I saw on epicurious, originally published in SELF Magazine, for a miso-marinated chicken. I made the marinade called for in the recipe but found it pretty flat, so I added some more things. The result was something I can recommend unequivocally; it was sweet but not overly so, salty in the wonderful way that miso and soy sauce are, tangy from rice wine vinegar, and zippy from fresh ginger and wasabi. The breasts were well-browned (I like'em with a hefty crust) and the sauce was properly reduced so as to be thick and drizzly. Also, I used homemade chicken stock, which really did make a bit of a difference. As for the braised fennel, I had the aforementioned chicken stock, as well as some drinkable white wine and ingredients for mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery -- the aromatics used as a base in many French and other dishes), so I decided to make a classic braise using all of the above to flavor browned, then softened, Fennel bulbs. D doesn't much like fennel, and you know what? Neither do I -- never was a fan of those licorice flavors. But the flavor of the fennel is so mellow in this braised dish as to be (almost) unassertive. It's like someone tazed the fennel or got it drunk or something. Get my drift? Braised fennel=good, =not as strong as licorice-y raw fennel. =Tasty, very tasty.
Along with some sushi-inspired, vinegar- and sugar-spiked white rice, the chicken and fennel made for a delectable meal. If you wanted to serve this set of dishes for company, I'd recommend starting with a seaweed salad, which D and I had at a lovely Friday night dinner, and by which I was totally blown away. Just ask my fridge: I've paying the leftover salad regular visits.
Miso Chicken adapted from SELF
1/2 cup white miso paste (found at health food stores) 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup chicken broth 1/8 cup rice vinegar 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce 1 Tbsp minced ginger 1/4 tsp wasabi paste, optional
Combine all ingredients except chicken; stir to combine. Don't worry if the miso clumps a bit. Add chicken, coat with marinade, and let sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.
Preheat skillet with 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Lift one chicken breast out of the marinade, letting excess drip off; transfer to skillet. Repeat, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook about 8-9 minutes per side, until well-browned and cooked through. Alternatively, roast in a 375-degree oven for approximately 20 minutes, until cooked through. Transfer chicken to a plate to cool, about 5 minutes.
Transfer remaining marinade to skillet, raise the heat to med-high, and reduce about 6-7 minutes, until fully cooked and thick enough to coat a wooden spoon. Spoon over chicken and serve.
Braised Fennel serves 4
3 fennel bulbs, cored and quartered, fronds reserved 1 small onion, diced 3 individual stalks (not full heads) celery, diced 2 small carrots or 1 large carrot, diced olive oil 2/3 cup white wine 2/3 cup chicken broth juice of 1/2 a lemon salt and pepper
Halve fennel bulbs; remove core with two diagonal cuts in a V toward the center. Then quarter the bulbs. In a large skillet with a lid, heat 3-4 Tbsp olive oil. Add mirepoix (celery, onion, carrot) and cook 5-6 minutes over medium heat, until browned and softened. Clear some room and add fennel pieces, and some more olive oil if necessary. Cook another 6 minutes, until bottoms of the fennel quarters are browned. Add chicken stock and wine, lower heat to a simmer, and cover skillet. Cook about 15-20 minutes, until fennel is soft all the way through. Add a bit of broth, wine, or water and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the "fond" -- any flavorful brown bits that have accumulated at the bottom of the skillet. Serve hot, warm, or even room temperature (though I prefer hot).