Back To Jacques
I spent an entire day last week taking down the Christmas tree. Not only had we loaded it with lights and baubles, we had also forgotten to water it for a few days, so it was pretty crisp and shedding needles like crazy.
As I wound the lights up on their storage spindles, carefully placed all the ornaments in their sectioned box for another year, and tracked down and boxed all the other miscellania that I use to decorate the house, I got more and more weary. I had to vacuum at least three times to catch most of the needles. By dinner time, I was bushed.
Luckily, I had taken a couple of chicken breasts out of the freezer but was without a single idea about what to do with them and, frankly, by that point I really didn't care. But I was hungry and so was My Beloved, who emerged from his home office to sniff around the kitchen like a bear leaving hibernation.
Back to Jacques. I have been cooking almost exclusively out of Jacques Pépin's newest big book, "Essential Pépin," and all of the recipes I have tried have been simple, quick and delicious. He has an unfussy, straightforward way with ingredients that I really like. I bought it out of hero worship but I'm learning that my high regard for him is justified. He made our chicken breasts, even when I didn't have all the right ingredients, into something quite special.
Essentially, all I did was grill the breasts and smear on a flavored butter. In this case, a tarragon and lemon flavored butter. The overall taste was similar to Béarnaise sauce but brighter and fresher. The butter was mixed with an equal measurement of olive oil, then swirled with lemon juice and fresh tarragon in a blender. I didn't have fresh tarragon and I was reluctant to get out my blender for a tablespoon or so of sauce, so I just mixed the softened butter in a small bowl with a whisk and it worked like a champ. The butter melted upon contact with the warm chicken breasts, spreading the scents of tarragon and lemon and putting an appetizing shine on the golden chicken.
Next time you are beat to your knees, remember Jacques and you've got dinner in the bag.