Food for thought:
Taste and See
Sauces make bland dishes tasty. And herbs of course: tarragon, basil, oregano, cumin, pepper, chili power, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, curry, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger. (I love to have fresh ginger on hand.)
What else makes food tasty? Well, you don’t even have to season things like mangoes or oranges. God has made all his fruits especially tasty. Wouldn’t you know it, He also created honey? We could go on and on.
The Psalmist encourages us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8a). I like to think of God as flavorful.
Some years ago I had the privilege of enjoying the hospitality of the Boston L’Abri for three weeks. I was there to study the Christian and the Arts. One evening during that time, they scheduled a salon. We were treated to hours of classical music on the violin by graduate students, jazz at the piano by a teenager, comedy with puppets involving children, guitar music, dramatic reading, singing and on and on. All well done.
I left in awe. The evening was like a diamond with each performer exhibiting a different facet (flavor) of God.
Chicken with Tarragon Sauce and Walnuts
My husband and I have just returned from the Southwest where we experienced many tasty treats: Navajo tacos on fry bread, crusty sweet pot stickers, lobster (my favorite), blue corn mush—boy! was it blue. On the south rim of the Grand Canyon we had an exquisite gourmet lunch at the historic El Tevar—gourmet Greek Salad and rich meaty chili. Flavorful! Tasty!
Chicken with Tarragon Sauce and Walnuts is an especially tasty creation of Dale’s that’s become part of my repertoire. I remember preparing it for my appreciative son Stephen during our first visit to his beachside apartment. Sauteed chicken, nutritious walnuts and a creamy sauce with that pungent spice called Tarragon. See if you like the entree as much as we do. [RuthAnn]
First, a deeper look at Dale’s basic sauce:
Meet Mrs. Whitesauce
Classical sauces live in families, and they all have a mother. Today I would like to introduce you to Mrs. Whitesauce and three of her children. You’ve probably made a white sauce, but if not, here are the instructions.
A white sauce has three ingredients: butter, flour and milk. To make one cup white sauce, cook one tablespoon of all purpose flour in one tablespoon of butter for one to two minutes over a medium heat. The sauce should remain blond (the color of the butter). If your flour was compacted, you might need to add more butter. Actually, you may add as much butter as you wish because it’s not the key ingredient. The flour is. Watch it foam and bubble as it cooks.
After cooking the flour for a bit, add one cup milk. Stir with a whisk, then turn the heat to medium low and let it sit. Stir occasionally. When the sauce begins to thicken, begin stirring constantly. Stir, but don’t panic.
Used to, when I read “stir constantly,” I became anxious: “Am I stirring too fast? Too slow? I don’t have a whisk. What am I going to do? Help!! Over the years I have learned to stay calm and stir with anything I have. (Chopsticks don’t work, however.) Sometimes I sing a verse of “Be Still My Soul.”
After the sauce has thickened, cook it for another minute. That’s the mother sauce. One tablespoon of flour and butter to a cup of milk will make a thin sauce. One and a half tablespoons of flour and an equal amount of butter to a cup of milk will give you a medium consistency sauce. This is the one you will use most often. For a thick sauce, use two tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of butter to one cup milk.
Bechamel (ba shuh MEL): By adding salt, white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg, you get Baby 1.
You can use a thin Bechamel with peas and spinach. A thick bechamel can be used as a binder when making croquettes or as the base for a souffle. I use it mixed with cottage cheese as a substitue for ricotta cheese in my lasagna. The sauce Bechamel is a much-used sauce. It would be helpful to memorize it.
Mornay (more Nay): add grated cheese, salt and white pepper to birth Baby number two.
A thin white sauce with a little melted brie is wonderful on delicate fish fillets or sliced hard boiled eggs. A medium white sauce with sharp cheddar and Velveeta makes a macaroni and cheese no kid could resist. I love it; I guess I’m still a kid. A Mornay with grated parmesan, asiago, or Romano is the perfect sauce for Italian dishes with pasta and chicken or shrimp mixed in with spring veggies.
Veloute (ve LOO tay): Flavoring the white sauce with meat stock gives you Baby Veloute.
The easiest way to do this is to add a teaspoon of bouillon granules and white pepper. The classic way is to substitute half the milk with meat stock. A veloute is most often flavored with chicken, seafood or veal bouillon. Use it on grilled or sauteed meats or potatoes.
There are more children, but perhaps three introductions are enough for one day. At a later time we will meet another family. May God guide your creativity with these three sauces. [Dale]
Chicken with Tarragon Sauce and Walnuts
You will need:
Boneless Chicken Breasts for 4
3 Tablespoons Canola Oil
Flour for Chicken
1. Flatten the thick end of the chicken by placing the meat between two pieces of waxed paper and beating it with the smooth side of a kitchen mallet.
(A carpenter’s hammer would work.) This process is for even cooking.
2. Pour the oil into a skillet and turn the heat to medium.
3. Heat your Oven to 350 degrees.
4. Place a little flour on a dinner plate and pat the chicken with it. Shake off any excess flour. The flour does not affect the taste of the chicken. Its function is purely cosmetic. It will color the meat a beautiful golden brown.
1. Saute the meat in the skillet. It’s okay to peek to see if the meat is browned enough, but avoid flipping the meat around and playing with it. Brown one side, then the other. Don’t worry about cooking the meat through. Simply make the outside look pretty.
2. After both sides are browned, place the meat on a sheet pan or whatever you have and let it finish in the oven. While you are preparing your sauce, check the meat once or twice to keep from over cooking.
For the Sauce:
You will need:
1 1/2 Tablespoons Butter Walnuts
1 1/2 Tablespoons Flour Salt
1 cup milk White Pepper
Nutmeg Fresh Tarragon
1. Chop 1/2 cup Walnuts.
2. Toast the walnuts in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes. After you have toasted the walnuts, turn the heat in the oven to the lowest level.
3. Chop 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon. What? You don’t have any fresh tarragon? Then use 1 teaspoon dried tarragon.
4. You have now created another of the Whitesauce children.
Putting It All Together:
1. In our book we recommend you “plate up” (a restaurant term) each guest’s plate in the kitchen, and we give several reasons for doing so. We recommend the same practice in this blog.
2. Check to see if the chicken is done. It should be around 180 degrees or the juices should run clear when it is pierced with a knife.
3. Salt the chicken on both sides according to your own taste.
4. Place the chicken on the dinner plates and pour a ribbon of the tarragon sauce across the width of the chicken. A ribbon only. The culinary tern is “cordon.”
5. Garnish with the toasted walnuts.
NOTE: I ran out of walnuts and used pecans instead. Still “delish.” (RuthAnn)
Blessing (To use with this meal)
Our dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for your flavorfulness, for all the facets of you I see in an endless variety of sauces, herbs, beauties and creative gifts. How vivacious you make our world! Praise your bountiful name.
In Jesus’ name, Amen