About Chicken with Mushrooms, White Wine, and Tarragon

It is often said that chicken is the tofu of the carnivorous world (shut up, it is) and this is used to justify the endless guilt trips that send you to ORGANIC! FREE RANGE! HORMONE FREE! poultry. And dude, yeah, awesome, get as many of those three things you can afford. I, personally, have no car, mortgage, children, or husband to speak of, and oh yeah, I'm a lawyer (albeit of the public interest variety), so I'm pretty much what they call "Recession Proof." And even though it's totally my job to yell ORGANIC! FREE RANGE! HORMONE FREE! whenever I possibly can, I'm also what they call "A Realist." Which is why, in this inaugural edition of in kat's kitchen (aren't lower-case letters so adorable?), I offer for your consideration a recipe to fancy up your Costco value pack.

Lets start with the shopping list, hmm? Like most of the recipes you'll find on this site, it feeds two, because Winston (cutest kitten in the whole wide world) doesn't eat people food. You'll need:
  • 2 chicken breasts or thighs, skin preferably on. (I generally use thighs, because hubba hubba.)
  • A package or so of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced. (This past Monday I used creminis, but man oh man, if I had access to San Francisco's Ferry Market on a regular basis you'd better believe I'd be using handfuls of about a billion different wild mushrooms.)
  • 2 large shallots, minced. (For the record, I use shallots in just about everything; they're so boss.)
  • About a tablespoon each of chopped fresh tarragon and thyme, preferably from your garden. (Or AeroGarden, if you're an 8th-floor apartment dweller like me.)
  • 3/4 cup of low-sodium chicken broth. (I made mine from scratch the night before. I'm just sayin'.)
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning, and flour for dredging.
  • A wedge of lemon for squeezing.
To start, pour yourself a glass of that there dry white wine. Gotta make sure it's not poisoned, right? Then, gather up your mis en place. (Which is fancy French for "get your shit together.") Also, preheat your oven to 400F degrees.

You'll see I rather heavily salted and peppered both sides of the chicken thighs for FLAVA. Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat (every stove is different, and since mine is super hot I use a 6 out of 10), and while that's heating up, dredge your thighs in flour to coat and shake off all the excess. (You want a very thin dusting, sort of like a baby's bottom. This is important to build the fond; but, too much will burn and make your sauce taste like an ash tray.)

Once the oil looks all shimmerey like a wishing well and is starting to barely smoke like a mildly annoyed genie in a bottle, add the chicken to the pan. Let the pieces sear on that side for about 6 minutes. It's important that you DO NOT TOUCH IT during this time, because once you start fiddling around before it's ready it starts sticking all over the place. Kinda like... never mind. ANYWHO, once you're all brown and crispy flip your bird pieces over and sear off the other side, another 5-6 minutes. Then remove to a plate.

This is important: your chicken isn't actually cooked through yet. AND THAT'S OKAY. You'll get there soon enough, and no, you won't get food poisoning letting your chicken sit there for a few minutes. And if you don't believe me, I suggest you never ever eat at another restaurant ever again. Also, I feel bad for you for missing out on all of the awesomeness this awesome world has to offer. What's it like living in your plastic bubble anyhow? I bet you have a lot of allergies. ANYWHO, there may be some excess oil accumulated in your pan; carefully spoon out all but about a tablespoon of this, and then add your sliced mushrooms, minced shallots, and chopped herbs.

Saute that all up for about 10 or 12 minutes or so, until your mushrooms release all their liquid and brown up, and the shallots get all caramelized and gooey, and the herbs smell SO GOOD.

And now, we deglaze the pan! (This is my favorite part.) First add the wine and scrape the bottom and sides of the pan real good so you get up all those lovely brown bits. (Brown bits = flavor.) Then add the chicken broth. Stir it all up and let it come to a boil.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, This? Is supposed to be a rich, velvety sauce? This is nothing but mushroom water! But like all good things, you, uh, gotta wait. Or whatever. ANYWHO, just let that keep boiling down for a while until about half the water in there has done the thing that water does over heat, namely, vaporize. You should notice that the proto-sauce has thickened up considerably, but that it's also still a bit runny. Kinda like this:

Well this is the perfect stage to nestle your chicken back in to all that mushroomy goodness. So do that, skin side up. (I assume you want crunchy, delicious skin.)

Then stick the whole pan into your preheated oven for as long as it takes for your thighs to reach 163F and your breasts 158F. (I use a probe thermometer to keep track of the internal temperature of my meats while they are in the oven, but an instant-read will work as well. Just start checking after about 8 minutes. (5 if you're using boneless breasts; also, heh.))

MEANWHILE, get some salted water a-boiling, and throw a couple handfuls of egg noodles in there, and boil them so long as the package says to boil them for. (You can easily substitute this whole step with regular pasta, white/brown/wild rice, couscous, mashed potatoes, assorted veggies... basically anything that goes good with sauce.)

MEANWHILE, chop up some more fresh herbs (this time I used tarragon and parsley) and throw them in a bowl with a blob of melted butter.

STAY WITH ME HERE, because this might get busy. When your meat has hit temperature, pull the whole pan out of the oven and remove the chicken to a separate plate. Loosely tent it with a piece of foil and let it rest for at least five minutes. This accomplishes two things: (1) The carryover heat allows the internal temperature of the chicken to rise a bunch of degrees and fully cook without drying out, and (2) the loose juices redistribute themselves about so they don't go running out all over the place as soon as you cut into your piece of chicken, thereby drying it out. Basically what I'm trying to say is NO ONE LIKES DRIED OUT CHICKEN.

Take a look at the remaining sauce. Is it thick enough? If yes, let it be. If not, pop it back on a burner over medium heat and reduce the liquid until you get not-nearly-the-consistency of jarred Thanksgiving gravy. As soon as you have it as thick as you want it (twss), give it a taste, and add a bit of salt and pepper if you think it needs it. And here is when I let you in on one of my not-so-secret secrets: mushrooms love lemon. So take that lemon wedge and squeeze a little juice in your sauce, give it a stir and enjoy the INSTANTANEOUS SUNSHINE.

POSSIBLY AT THE SAME TIME, your egg noodles will be just about done, so drain those in a colander and then toss them about in your bowl with the melted butter and chopped fresh herbs.

Now it's time to plate, and if you're anything like Jennie (or my college friend Jenny, although I already got her with the introduction of parsley) this is where I murder you just a little bit. Basically it goes like this: buttered-herb egg noodles, topped with a piece of chicken, and doused with the mushroom and wine sauce. OH MY GOD YOUR FOOD IS TOUCHING.

Man, that is so brown. But remember, brown is good. But so is green (environmentalist alert!), so here, have a salad:

This happens to be baby greens and cherry tomatoes dressed in freshly squeezed lemon juice and Spanish olive oil, and garnished with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. But, you know, Ceasar from a bag is probably good too :)


  1. That looks/sounds awesome. There were like 8 different stages at which I would have just stopped and eaten the food as it was.

  2. Dude. That looks SO awesome. And the writing is delicious.

    Hello, Kat.

  3. hey guys, thanks! and for the record, this site is still in beta. we'll see how long/well it keeps up.

  4. Yay! Welcome, cooking blog!

  5. It's OK for some foods to touch. Like, all that up there, that is fine, that all goes together like peas and carrots. But if the salad was on the same plate and the mushroom sauce touched the lettuce? I would cry because GROSS.

  6. I am still starving for this.

  7. you should make it for dinner tonight and tell me how it goes.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Jenn and I are making this tonight!

  10. i'm so excited! you'll have to tell me how it goes so i know whether i'm writing out these recipes right.

  11. Kat! Heather Anne and I made this tonight and it. was. amazing. Well, we almost made it. I don't care for pasta of any kind, so we just put it all on a big ol' plate of baby spinach. My house still smells amazing.

  12. Your instructions were great! We kept being like, "Um, but Kat said..."

    Pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/heatherannehogan/sets/72157616692685459/

  13. OH! The spinach sounds AWESOME. Did you make enough sauce? Sometimes you need to make enough sauce to cover, like, THE WORLD, but I didn't think to mention it. That's a FAIL on my part.

  14. Wait, Jenn doesn't like pasta? Is that possible? Do people not like pasta? I'm so confused.