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The Versatile Chicken: Breasts

May 02, 1991|BEV BENNETT | Bennett is a cookbook author. and

Judging from what is filling supermarket carts, boneless chicken breasts must be the ground beef of the '90s.

Twenty years ago, ground beef--the inexpensive alternative to the sirloin steaks everyone would have preferred--was a standard feature of the week's menu.

Cookbooks described the infinite number of dishes one could make with ground beef. Packets of flavorings promised help for the bland burger, and the smart cook seasoned the family's hamburgers with a different ethnic accent each week as an international taste tour.

Now that boneless chicken breasts have replaced ground beef as the convenient and quick main dish, the same challenge arises: how to make it different--and yet delicious--each time.

Fortunately, chicken is more versatile than ground beef. It can be sauced or served plain. It can be broiled, baked, skewered, poached, sauteed or grilled. It is as delicious with a brushing of mustard and honey as it is with peanut butter and hot peppers.

Unlike a hamburger, which is pretty plain, chicken can be as sophisticated as the cook's imagination allows.

In the following recipe, boneless breast is coated with crushed peppercorns for a hot, sharp flavor. To take the recipe another luscious step, prepare a jalapeno pepper and mustard cream sauce to serve over it. Serve it with fresh asparagus and a blue cheese-chive vinaigrette.

PEPPERED CHICKEN

1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 small jalapeno chile, seeded and minced

1/2 cup half and half

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Garlicky Bulgur Wheat

Divide chicken breast in half. Place between 2 sheets of wax paper and pound to make chicken 1/2-inch thick. Press 1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns into each breast half, covering both sides lightly.

Melt butter over high heat in medium skillet. Add chicken and brown 1 to 2 minutes per side. Add broth and reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, until chicken is tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken and keep warm. Add jalapeno chile and half and half to skillet. Cook over high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in mustard and cheese, allowing cheese to melt.

Place Garlicky Bulgur Wheat on 2 plates. Arrange 1 chicken breast half over each and spoon sauce over top. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Garlicky Bulgur Wheat

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1/2 cup bulgur wheat

1 cup chicken broth

Salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Saute garlic in heated butter in small pan 5 minutes. Stir in bulgur wheat and cook 1 minute, stirring to coat with butter. Gradually add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low.

Simmer, covered, until bulgur is tender and broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove garlic. Season to taste with salt and white pepper and fluff with fork before serving. Makes 2 servings.

ASPARAGUS WITH

BLUE CHEESE

AND CHIVE

VINAIGRETTE

1/2 pound thick asparagus spears

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil

2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

1 tablespoon minced chives

Freshly ground white pepper

Snap ends off asparagus. Place 1 inch water in medium skillet and bring to boil. Add asparagus in single layer and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain well and arrange on serving plate.

Stir together vinegar and oil in small bowl. Add cheese and chives and mix well. Pour over hot asparagus. Season to taste with pepper. Makes 2 servings.

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