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Food Network Favorites: Pan-Roasted Chicken with Port & Whole-Grain Mustard

This butterflied chicken cooks quickly and tastes great. A couple of quibbles: Wolfgang Puck could have been a bit more thorough in his instructions. And he's awfully parsimonious with the sauce.

The book has a side note with photos giving instructions on how to butterfly a chicken, but they're not terribly in-depth. This page from Weber is much more detailed and helpful. If you've never butterflied a chicken, don't be put off -- it's extremely simple and takes only a couple of minutes. Be sure to have the right tool, however; you'll need a pair of good kitchen or poultry shears to cut through the rib bones.

The recipe is oddly specific about one thing: the pan should be "14- to 16-inches," according to Puck. I'm not sure why that is. I used a 12-inch skillet without any problems. Perhaps the large size is suggested so that the chicken can be splayed out and as much of the skin as possible will be in contact with the surface of the pan. But that's only a guess, since no reason is given for the large size. I wouldn't try to cook the chicken in a pan smaller than 12 inches, since the chicken will just fit in that size pan.

Once the bird is butterflied, it takes about 40 minutes to cook. Puck's recipe indicates that after the skin is crisped on the stove, the chicken will roast through in about 10 to 20 minutes, but I suspect that he's basing those figures on restaurant equipment, which is generally higher-powered than your oven at home. I crisped the skin on my bird for 8 minutes, then roasted for about 30 minutes before the chicken reached an internal temperature of 180 degrees.

Puck's instructions for the sauce are somewhat vague: he tells the cook to reduce the port by half, and then to add chicken stock and "reduce again." Reduce by half again? It's not clear. I'd reduce that much again, but it's a guess on my part, since the recipe doesn't actually say so. You can use barbecue sauce instead of chicken stock, if you wish, although the texture of the sauce made with barbecue sauce was very thick, which Puck doesn't mention. If you use barbecue sauce, you may need to thin out the finished sauce with a bit of chicken stock so that it isn't too gloopy and sticky. The flavors of the sauce are excellent, but there's not quite enough of it. After the port was reduced to 1/4 cup, and the cream was added, there was barely a scant 3/4 cup of finished sauce, for 4 servings. I have doubled the ingredients for the sauce, to ensure that there's plenty to go around.

A final note: Puck's serving instructions are practically nonexistent. He says merely to put the chicken in the skillet on top of the sauce, and then sprinkle with herbs. And...then what? I suppose if this dish is served in one of Puck's restaurants, it might be brought to the table in the skillet (perhaps a shiny copper one) and then carved tableside by the waiter. At home, however, it seems strange to bring a whole chicken to the table in a skillet, where you'll have to try to carve it in the pan. I suggest that you carve the chicken into 4 serving pieces on a cutting board, and then if you really want to serve it in its pan, you can bring it to the table that way. Or just plate the chicken and sauce and forget about the skillet altogether. Be sure to put the chicken on top of the sauce, so that the sauce doesn't make the crispy skin soggy.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: about 35 to 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

3- to 4-lb. whole frying chicken, butterflied
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup port wine
1 cup chicken stock OR 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp Meaux or other whole-grain mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a very large (at least 12 inches) ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl it in the skillet. As soon as you see wisps of smoke, add the chicken, skin side down. Try to get as much of the skin in contact with the bottom of the pan as possible. Sear the chicken undisturbed, while slowly reducing the heat to medium in small increments, until the skin is golden, about 8 minutes. Very carefully turn the chicken skin side up, taking care not to break the skin.

Put the skillet in the oven and roast until the juices run clear and the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 25 to 30 more minutes. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a plate and keep warm.

Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet. Add the port, put the skillet over high heat, and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half again (if you are using barbecue sauce, you do not need to reduce). Add the cream, bring it to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the mustards and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce seems very thick, add a little bit of chicken stock to achieve the desired consistency.

Sprinkle the chicken with the chopped herbs and carve into 4 serving pieces. Place a pool of sauce onto each plate, and top with a piece of chicken.



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