Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Martini Chicken -- Sauteed, Not Stirred

Slashfood's spirited theme of the day got me to thinking about cooking with alcohol. I knew I wanted to make something savory and thought it might as well be something I could serve for dinner when I was done. I had just been thinking about martinis, and well, that’s how the concept for Martini Chicken came about. I thought gin would make a good marinade with its notes of juniper and herbs and that dry vermouth would work well to deglaze the sauté pan. One of my sons suggested that it wouldn’t be Martini Chicken without olives. I often cook with olives, but never the pimento-stuffed olives, which I felt would be the olive of choice for Martini Chicken. They worked well but since they are salty, wait until you taste at the end to season with salt. Top Martini Chicken with skewered pickled onion, olive and lemon twist garnishes and serve on a bed of polenta or garlic mashed potatoes. Bottoms up!

Martini Chicken
Serves 2-4

1½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 half breasts)
½ cup of a gin with strong herbal notes (such as Tanqueray)
¼ tsp coriander seed
2 tbsp plus 2 tbsp of olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (approximately 1 medium onion)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp of fresh, chopped rosemary (or use ¼ tsp dried)
½ cup of sliced pimento-stuffed olives, approx 10-12 queen olives.
¼ cup dry vermouth
zest of one lemon, finely chopped
2 tbsp of fresh minced parsley
Garnish (optional, see below)


Put chicken in a non-reactive bowl. Add gin and coriander seed. Marinate for 15-20 minutes.


Drain chicken.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in large sauté pan. Add chicken and saute on medium high heat until browned on both sides, but do not cook through. Remove from pan and keep warm.

If needed, add additional olive oil to the pan you sautéed the chicken in. Add chopped onion, sauté over medium heat until softened and just starting to turn golden. Stir around as you sauté to be sure browned bits leftover from cooking the chicken are incorporated. Add garlic, sauté for a minute, then add the sliced olives. Combine well.

Slide chicken off the plate and back into the pan with any juices. Sauté until the chicken is just done. Do not overcook. Taste sauce, adding salt and pepper as needed. Remove chicken and onion mixture to serving platter, keep warm.

Pour the dry vermouth into the pan and stir, combining with any leftover brown bits and pan juices. Cook over a medium high heat until the sauce is reduced down to a syrupy consistency and drizzle over chicken.

Scatter chopped lemon zest and parsley over top of chicken.

Garnish (optional)

4 long toothpicks, party picks or similar
4 lemon peel twists
4 whole pimento stuffed olives
4 whole small, pickled cocktail onions

For each garnish, skewer a lemon twist, then an olive and an onion. Stick each finished spear into a chicken breast.

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