What to do with a chicken breast?
Wanting to surprise my parents with a cool dinner, I thought that duck would make a fun meal, so I was just going to quickly run to the store, grab a couple of duck breasts and head over to make a meal for my parents. Duck is something delicious that we definitely don’t eat every day, and I was really looking forward to making something fun and unexpected.
Unfortunately, that was not meant to be.
The entire store was out of duck! There was no exciting game in the entire place! I even tried to get some chicken livers (which I actually love), but they were out of those as well! Frustrated, I looked around and discovered that chicken breasts were on sale, so I grabbed a big one and headed to the produce area, which I can always count on for inspiration.
In the mood for something healthy and filled with fall flavors for this slightly chilly day, I looked to around for anything that looked particularly good for dinner. Everything looked great! It was definitely one of those days where I wanted to run around the produce area, grabbing a little bit of everything that I passed. There were gorgeous red radicchio, bright white fennel, and perfect little mushrooms that just had to come home with me. Another item that caught my eye was this very tasty looking stone-ground white polenta, which seemed perfect for the meal I now had in mind.
Armed with groceries, I headed back over to my parent’s house to make dinner. It was a truly gorgeous day with the sun shining and the colors changing. That view they have is incredible! You can stand on the porch, looking out over a vineyard into hills, all of the colors changing to rich reds, yellows, and golds. It can be pretty tough to make a good-looking chicken breast with a poodle puppy underfoot, but with a rich oatmeal stout in my hand, music playing in the kitchen, that view out the windows, and Charlotte jumping around and racing from one end of the house to the other, it was a fun dinner to prepare!
Polenta is always great with loads of cheese, butter, and cream, but I kept it lighter than I normally do for this dinner. If you want to go crazy, please do! Double the amount of butter and parmesan here, and you’ll have something that will make you mighty popular with anyone lucky enough to have you cooking for them! This polenta is seriously tasty, but if you’re looking for something rich enough to make you slide right into a nap, don’t be afraid to make the adjustment!
- 1-2 chicken breasts, split
- 1 tsp oil (neutral like vegetable, or olive oil)
- 1/2 tsp smoked hot paprika
- 1 cup polenta (I found white stone-ground polenta, but use what you have. Not quick-cook.)
- 3 cups water
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs thyme, chopped
- 2 Tbs sour cream (low-fat or fat-free could work here)
- 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
- salt, pepper
- 1 Tbs plus 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 each radicchio, cut in wedges, core intact
- 1 each fennel, cut in wedges, core intact
- 8 oz mushrooms (any kind), sliced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 3 sprigs thyme
- salt, pepper
- Preheat oven to 375
- Trim any excess skin and fat off of the breast.
- Season liberally on all sides with salt, pepper, and the paprika
- Get a pan hot and add the oil.
- When the oil is almost smoking, add the breast, skin-side-down, and immediately lower heat.
- Cook undisturbed until you can see the skin becoming golden around the edges.
- Flip over and move to oven for 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts.
- The chicken is done when it is just barely cooked all the way through.
- Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil gently in a pot.
- Add the shallots and garlic and cook gently until soft and translucent.
- Add the thyme and stir.
- Add the water with a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil.
- Slowly and carefully add the polenta, stirring well as you add it. You're trying to avoid lumps, so really stir this well!
- Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring almost constantly. (If you want to stir less, make your polenta in a double boiler! Perfect polenta with seriously less hassle.)
- Add the parmesan and sour cream, more salt and pepper and mix well.
- Add the butter, mix well.
- Taste and season.
- When cutting them into wedges, if you leave the core intact on each wedge, they'll be easier to color evenly. If you'd rather, go ahead and just chop into bite-sized pieces. When cooking, stir often enough to color all of the leaves.
- Find a pan that can also go in the oven, like a cast iron pan.
- Get your pan hot over a hight heat and add 1 Tbs oil.
- Carefully add the radicchio to the oil in a single layer, seasoning both sides with salt and pepper.
- When one side is nicely golden brown, flip over and cook the other side.
- Remove from pan.
- Do the same for the fennel.
- Add the radicchio back to the pan with the fennel and finish cooking in the oven 4-6 minutes.
- You want the fennel and radicchio to be just tender.
- Heat a large sauté pan and add 1 Tbs oil.
- When nearly smoking, carefully add the mushrooms in a single layer.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Allow to cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir and allow to cook undisturbed for another 2-3 minutes. You do want the mushrooms to begin to caramelize.
- Add the garlic clove and thyme sprigs to the mushrooms and toss for another minute.
- Remove from heat. Just before serving, remove the garlic and thyme. Taste and season.
- Slice the chicken breasts against the grain on the diagonal.
- Plate the polenta, followed by the mushrooms and vegetables, then the chicken, and enjoy! For bonus flavor, drizzle a little good quality olive oil over the chicken and then hit it with a little freshly-cracked black pepper and a pinch of crunchy salt.
There you have it! A filling and flavorful meal with polenta, chicken breast, and vegetables that’s perfect for a fall evening.