Monday, January 30, 2012
Craig Claiborne - Chicken Cutlets Pojarski
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I thought you might like to meet the man who was instrumental in helping the careers of many of the women who appear on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game Changers in food. His name is Craig Claiborne and while he might look like a leprechaun, his life was one of contradiction and personal unhappiness. He had a difficult childhood and his adult life was plagued by demons he could not conquer. His personal story is fascinating, but rather than discuss that, I'd like to focus on his role in American gastronomy. He was food editor of the New York Times from 1957 until 1986 and was one of the first men to oversee the food pages of a newspaper. He reviewed restaurants, wrote columns and, in collaboration with Pierre Franey, wrote or edited 20 cookbooks, including the New York Times Cook Book. He, quite unintentionally, set the bar for all food journalism and criticism that followed his tenure at the paper. While he studied at École Hôtelière in Lausanne, Switzerland, he credited time spent in the kitchen of his mother's boarding house with inspiring his passion for food. The time he spent in Switzerland, however, is what got him in the door at Gourmet Magazine, where he initially worked as a receptionist. He eventually moved on to the Times and during his tenure, the country was introduced to the cuisines and chefs of France, Italy, Mexico and Asia. He also featured the work of relatively unknown writers and chefs, including Maida Heatter, Madhur Jaffrey, Marcella Hazan, Paul Prudhomme, and Zarela Martinez. Perhaps the most famous story told about him regards the $4000 meal he shared with Pierre Franey at Chez Denis in Paris. The meal, which had been won at a charity auction, was 5 hours long and consisted of 32 courses. American Express had donated the prize and because no limit had been set on the cost of the meal, they honored the bill in full, despite public outcry about its extravagance. His critics included the Pope who was outraged by the cost of the meal. Craig Claiborne died in 2000.
I went through my old files to find a recipe I thought would be ideal to highlight the work done by Craig Claiborne. I finally settled on one for Chicken Pojarski. The dish is named after the favorite chef of Tsar Nicholas I who enjoyed a version of this dish that was made with minced veal. The minced patties were served with an outstanding paprika cream sauce that sets this dish apart from others like it. I made this dish as a young woman. It was extremely popular in the 1970's because it could be made ahead of time and simply reheated for serving. It is really easy to do, but I stopped making it because of the amount of butter that is used. If you decide to try the recipe, I have one caution to share with you. Do not use ground chicken to form the cutlets. Chicken that finely ground will make them dense. It is better to cut the chicken into one inch cubes and then minced it by hand or in a food processor. If you use a food processor, pulse the meat for 5 to 8 times and then stop. The rest of the recipe is really child's play. These are very, very good and if you can get past the amount of butter that's used, you will love these cutlets. Here's the recipe.
Chicken Cutlets Pojarski...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Craig Claiborne
2 large chicken breasts , skinned and boned
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
11 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1-1/2 to 2 cups breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons onions , finely chopped
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon cognac
1/4 cup sour cream
1) Chill a medium sized mixing bowl in freezer.
2) Place boned chicken meat on a board and chop thoroughly with a sharp knife until fine or pulse meat in a food processor. (You can use a food processor for this but you must take extreme care not to over-process the meat as the texture of your cooked cutlets will be too heavy.).
3) Add meat to chilled bowl. Add salt and white pepper to taste, nutmeg and 5 tablespoons of the butter, melted. Mix well. Return bowl and mixture to freezer to chill once more while you prepare dredging station. Do not freeze.
4) Season flour with salt and white pepper and place on a length of wax paper. Break the egg into a pie plate and beat with the vegetable oil and water. Place bread crumbs on another length of wax paper.
5) Divide chilled mixture into 6 to 8 portions and shape each into a 1/2 inch thick cutlet. Dip one cutlet at a time into flour, then in egg, then in bread crumbs. Press the crumbs gently into the cutlets then chill them until ready to cook. ( The cutlets may be made several hours ahead to this point. Keep cutlets refrigerated until ready to cook.).
6) Heat remaining butter in a large skillet and careful add cutlets. Cook until golden brown on one side then turn and cook on the other.
7) Serve with the Paprika Sauce.
8) To make paprika sauce: Melt one tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan and cook onion until wilted. Sprinkle with paprika, flour and thyme, stirring. Stir in the chicken stock, using a whisk and simmer about 3 minutes. (The sauce may be made several hours ahead up until this point.). When ready to proceed, add cream and bring to a boil. Add lemon juice, salt and white pepper to taste and cognac. Strain sauce through a sieve. Return to heat and stir in remaining butter and sour cream. Heat sauce through but do not bring to a boil. Yield: 1-1/2 cups.
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