Sautéed Chicken Breasts

I love to cook, but there are days when I’m just too tired or busy to do much. Today was one of those days, so I turned to a long-time staple here at Magic Cove: sautéed chicken breasts. Nothing is faster or easier to do.

The chicken, start to finish, took about 20 minutes. In the meantime, I made pan-roasted potatoes at the same time, heated some peas (my family will only eat the canned baby ones, the heathens) and finished a partially pre-baked garlic knot loaf from Fresh Market (a total cheat). I was maybe in the kitchen 30 minutes, tops, and had a beautiful and (relatively) healthy meal on the table in no time.

Sautéed Chicken Breasts
For the chicken:
1 T. organic butter
1 T. good olive oil
Three to four organic chicken breasts
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
2 minced garlic cloves
2 T. minced onion
1/3 cup white wine (I had a partial bottle of Pinot Grigio in the frig, so that’s what I used)
Juice of one lemon
2 T. organic butter
Fresh chopped parsley

For the chicken: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Lay down the chicken breasts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then turn so they are coated with the fat. Sprinkle the other side with salt and pepper. Cook, turning once, until they are lightly browned on both sides.

You don’t want them too dark. See that pretty color?
When the chicken is browned, cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, turning occasionally, until just barely shy of done (done will be 180ºF on an instant-read thermometer, so shoot for about 170ºF). Remove the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Increase heat to medium. In the pan juices that remain, add the garlic and onion and sauté until soft. Add the white wine (if you are not accustomed to cooking alcohol over heat, especially gas, please remove the pan briefly from the heat to do this; I don’t want to hear it’s my fault you have no eyebrows). Bring the sauce to a boil and boil until slightly reduced. Add the lemon juice, then swirl in the butter. Cook until slightly thickened.

Add the chicken breasts back to the pan and cook in the sauce, turning occasionally, until cooked through and the chicken registers 180ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the chicken to a platter, pour the sauce over and sprinkle with parsley (for me, a matter of stepping out my back door to the bodacious herb garden Grillmaster D planted for me). Serve hot.

* This is my favorite sauce for sautéed chicken breasts, but the possibilities are endless.
* A lot of people like to pound their chicken breasts thin before cooking, but we prefer them unpounded. Just remember that if you do, you will have to adjust your cooking time accordingly.
* I love lemon passionately, so this is a fairly tart sauce; however, if you are not quite the lemon lover, you can reduce the amount of lemon juice called for or substitute chicken broth for the wine.

~ Tiffany


Diner-Style Strawberry Pie

It is high strawberry season in Florida and, as usual, I am indulging in my great love of the fruit. I personally love strawberries best plain, with maybe a splash of heavy cream, but truly stellar ripe strawberries lend themselves to a variety of great dishes both savory and sweet.
I don’t cook with them much over the rest of the year unless I am using strawberries I have frozen or preserved myself—the California berries that appear in my markets routinely outside of Florida season are large, crunchy, sour and not worth my time. At their peak, Florida strawberries are smaller and sweeter than their California cousins and a testament to all a good strawberry should be.
They are also remarkably versatile. Want a fast and fancy dessert? Marinate perfectly ripe strawberries in a little red wine and just a touch of brown sugar and serve over the best vanilla ice cream you can buy or make. With a teensy grind of black Tellicherry pepper over the top (yes, black pepper. Trust me on this, you and your guests will go nuts).
I also like to preserve strawberries in syrup for use later in the year—preserved strawberries actually taste better if left alone to “cure” for eight or nine months or so. There is nothing better than cracking open a jar of preserved strawberries in the dead of winter, mixing them with a jar of preserved peaches and a little thickener, dumping it into a pie crust to bake and letting the smell of spring fill the house.
My ultimate go-to and most favorite strawberry dessert, however, is diner-style strawberry pie. The ones you see under glass cases in most diners, filled with glistening strawberries and piled high with oceans of whipped cream. The ones that make you think about what you are having for lunch or dinner with all the seriousness given to a war campaign, just so you make sure you have room for dessert.
If you live in certain areas of the country, you’ll understand when I say Bob’s Big Boy restaurants arguably are the best (and best known), by serious foodies and casual diners alike. Rose Levy Beranbaum— estimable baker and cookbook author of such iconic classics as The Cake Bible, The Bread Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible, et al.—remembers fond weekends with her family when they would drive over 50 miles just to have a slice of this pie.
Copycat recipes abound on the Internet, with most using strawberry Jell-O as a base for the glaze that coats the strawberries. I find the Jell-O versions too sweet and gummy for my tastes—a perfect Florida strawberry, after all, needs little embellishment—so I prefer one made using the more neutral and honest assistance of cornstarch and fruit pectin.
Although many pie recipes call for leaving the filling strawberries whole (and I do admit it makes a pretty pie), I prefer to slice my strawberries—it is my opinion the finished result more than makes up for any loss of presentation with a better fruit-to-glaze ratio and a better mouthfeel.
Diner-Style Strawberry Pie
3 pints fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and thickly sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 T. cornstarch
2 tsp. Sure-Jell (for low-sugar, in the pink box—do not use the Sure-Jell in the yellow box or your pie will not set up properly)
Pinch of table salt
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 baked 9-inch pie shell
Whipped cream
Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the sliced strawberries and puree in a food processor until smooth.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell and salt.  Stir in the strawberry puree; cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom and the sides of the pan constantly.  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the lemon juice; let cool to room temperature.
When the glaze is cool, add the remaining sliced strawberries to the bowl with the glaze and mix gently with a spatula until the berries are evenly coated, taking care not to break up the strawberry slices. Pour the strawberry mixture into the baked pie shell. Refrigerate the pie until chilled, about 2 hours.

Top with fresh, lightly sweetened whipped cream and serve (and I don’t have to have a conversation with you about the red plastic can whipped cream, do I?).