Labor Day is a bittersweet holiday. Of course we are thrilled to have a long weekend and a chance to get out of town for a few days, but it marks the end of the summer holiday season and back-to-school for most children. If you are lucky enough to be in Northern California, it also begins our most beautiful weather of the year. September and October are spectacular here and the perfect time for outdoor grilling.
The days are warm with sparkling sunshine and the nights cooled by the San Francisco fog, so you sleep soundly and wake totally rested. With just a hint of autumn in the air, it is my favorite time of the year.
Today’s recipe is from Sara Moulton. A few years ago I was lucky enough to take a class from her and was very impressed with her style and ease in front of the audience. Since then I have had the pleasure of seeing her several times at the IACP annual conferences. She is always gracious and lovely.
Sarah started her food career, after graduating from the University of Michigan, when she attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She worked with Julia Child on the “Julia Child & More Company” PBS program and from there went on to work behind the scenes and in front of the camera at ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She was one of the first chefs featured on the fledgling Food Network and her show was at the top of their ratings for years. At the same time, she was also the head chef for Gourmet Magazine’s Executive dining room.
Sara is also an accomplished cookbook author and has written several books, including, “Sara Moulton Cooks at Home,” “Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals,” and “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.” These are written so that anyone can create her tasty and healthy meals. You are sure to find many recipes that will become family favorites. I love my copies and pull them out often to get ideas for parties and weekly meals. They are sure to become a treasured resource for you too.
Today’s recipe is grilled chicken made with a mustard-dill sauce, always a delicious combination of flavors. But if you don’t care for dill, you can change the herbs to suit your tastes. You can replace it with rosemary, thyme, or chives for example. Just remember that you need an assertive herb to stand up to the mustard. This sauce is also fantastic with pork and salmon.
This recipe is a good chance for you to learn a new technique – how to pound meat to create a cutlet. Pounding meats evens out the thickness helping it to cook evenly. It is especially helpful with chicken where you often have one part much thicker than the rest. If you’ve never done this, it’s a great way to get rid of some stress or work out any anger you may be harboring, LOL.
This time I had much larger breasts and didn’t pound them (as you can see in the photo above), I just increased the cooking time to compensate and cooked them until they reached 160°F. Recipes are always a guide, not a “rule” that has to be followed religiously. Get comfortable with the concept of stretching the boundaries in cooking and you will have a whole lot more fun in the kitchen!
If the weather is bad, if you don’t own a grill, or if barbecuing is a hassle for you, you can also quickly pan-fry the chicken. Remember, due to your pounding the chicken into a thin cutlet, it will only take a minute or two to cook.
Because our farmers’ markets are full of heirloom tomatoes, I thought a Caprese salad would be the perfect starter. You can serve it in the traditional style with thick slices of mozzarella cheese between tomato slices and garnished with fresh basil leaves. If you want a fun and creative way to present it, try Caprese skewers using cherry tomatoes and bocconcini (small balls of mozzarella) separated with small whole basil leaves. In both cases all you need is a light drizzle of high quality olive oil, and salt and pepper. Let the pure flavors of the ingredients shine and there won’t be a bite left on anyone’s plates.
For dessert you could make a berry or apple crisp as the perfect ending to your meal. With the markets overflowing with fresh fruits, you can choose whatever is the most fragrant and enjoy them in a healthy dessert. I have a feeling that there is a blueberry crisp in our future!
Enjoy your long weekend. Take a moment to breathe in the fresh air, rejuvenate your soul and quiet your mind. All too soon we will be in the middle of the holiday season and winter, struggling to remember the warmth of summer. I am so grateful for the beauty that surrounds me.
Have a wonderful holiday and thank you Sarah for another winning recipe!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Keeping boneless chicken breasts in the freezer helps you get dinners on the table in a snap. Toss them with some pasta or rice, add to a salad, or grill them quickly. You can create endless meals with chicken as the star attractions, making it one of the most popular ingredients in the American kitchen.
Kitchen Skill: Pounding Meats to Create Cutlets
Pounding out chicken or other meat until thin creates what is called a cutlet. The purpose is to get all parts of the meat to the same thickness so it will cook evenly. A cutlet is usually lightly breaded and cooked quickly. Served with a sauce, it is a meal that can be done in 15 minutes! A meat pounder or tenderizer usually has two sides, one that is flat and the other with coarse knobs on it. Use the flat side to even the thickness and create cutlets. The knobby side is for tenderizing tough cuts of meat. For chicken, pork, and veal (or other delicate meats) place it inside a plastic storage bag (freezer-style works best) and starting at the thickest part, hit it with a downward and slightly sideways motion like you are conducting an orchestra, so that you are pressing the meat toward its edge. Pound until it is all the same thickness.
- 1/2 cup coarse-grained mustard
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, Champagne vinegar, or aged Sherry wine vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2/3 to 3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- 4 (1/4-inch thick) chicken cutlets (1-1/2 lb total) (or breasts pounded thin, see directions above)
- 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly cooked hot rice (cooked in salted water or chicken stock)
- Minced fresh dill, chives, or parsley, for garnish
- In a bowl, combine all sauce ingredients and season with pepper. Sauce may be made 1 day ahead, covered and kept chilled. Let sauce come to room temperature and whisk before serving. Rewarm and place in a serving container such as a small pitcher or gravy boat.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in enough oil to make a smooth dressing with a balanced taste. Alternately, put ingredients in a jar, cover with lid tightly, and shake well. Stir in garlic and shallots. Place the cutlets in a glass pan, pour the marinade over, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry; discard the marinade. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Grill on an oiled rack set over glowing coals for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through. Set chicken over hot cooked rice, pour sauce over top, and serve
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