Thursday, 3 July 2014

Low-Carb Chicken Breasts in a Butter, Basil & Tomato Cream Sauce

This delicate dish, with its tiny sequins of butter, is quick to make, but it does involve some faffery in the tomato-peeling department. It's worth the effort, though - the dabs of fresh tomato and basil shreds add freshness to the sauce, which is scandalously creamy and buttery, containing as it does those two luscious ingredients so allowed on a low-carb #LCHF or #Banting diet.  This is a dish of utmost simplicity, and I hope you enjoy it.

Low-Carb Chicken Breasts in a Butter, Basil & Tomato Cream Sauce

Wine recommendation from Michael Oliver: Môreson Dr Reason Why Unwooded
Chardonnay 2013 - Franschhoek. Go to the end of the page for more detail about this pairing.

The first time I made this, I found the sauce lacked depth, as is the case with any dish made in a hurry. The next time I tried it, I added a little concentrated chicken stock, which made all the difference.  It's frowned upon in foodster circles to use shop stock, but I have no patience with this attitude.  I don't have time, when I'm making my family's evening meal, to fiddle around making stock, or thawing and reducing the many tubs of home-made stock ossifying in my freezer.  Two important points: one, use a good quality concentrated stock; two, these can be quite salty, so don't season the sauce until you've tasted it.

Please follow my instructions to the letter in this recipe so your chicken breasts are beautifully tender, without a hint of rubberiness.

As this sauce is subtle, I suggest you serve it with meek-tasting veggies, such as courgettes or baby green beans.  Don't pair it with the ubiquitous caulirice or cauliflower mash, which will overpower the understated tomato and basil flavours. If you're not on a low-carb regime, I'd recommend serving this with creamy mashed potatoes.

If you'd like to add a little smokiness to this dish, crisp up some finely chopped bacon in a hot pan before you fry the chicken breasts.  Set aside, then stir the bits in when you add the cream.

The pulp and seeds of tomato are packed with umami, so don't throw these away when you prepare the tomatoes - again, see my instructions below.

This sauce contains no starchy agents, relying for thickening on fast reduction.  So it's suitable for diabetics, low-carbers and everyone else reducing carbohydrates in their diets.

Low-Carb Chicken Breasts in a Butter, Basil & Tomato Cream Sauce

8 free-range, deboned, skinless chicken breasts
salt and milled black pepper
5 large red juicy tomatoes
boiling water, for skinning the tomatoes
3 Tbsp (45 ml) salted butter
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely crushed or grated
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) good quality concentrated chicken stock, such as a Nomu Fond or Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
1 cup (250 ml) cream
10 big fresh basil leaves
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Trim any globules of fat from the chicken breasts, place on a board and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Put the tomatoes into a big bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside for 3-4 minutes, or until you see their skins begin to wrinkle and split.

Very gently cook the chicken breasts on one side only in their buttery
 bath. I have turned over two breasts in this picture to show you how
 they should look when they're ready to be taken out of the pan.
In the meantime, heat the butter and olive oil over a high heat in a large shallow pan big enough to fit all the chicken breasts in a single layer.

When the butter stops foaming, add the breasts, smooth side down, turn down the heat to medium-low and gently fry them in their buttery bath for 3-4 minutes, or until their undersides are a light golden colour, but the breasts are still completely raw on top.  Don't allow them to brown or burn - if the butter is anywhere near darkening, turn the heat right down.  When they look as if they've cooked halfway through, remove from the pan and pile them onto a plate. Set aside.

Pull the wrinkly skin off the tomatoes and discard. Carve out the dots on the stalk ends and slice each one in half.  Place a bowl on your countertop and, holding each tomato half above the bowl, remove the seeds and pulp, letting these drop into the bowl. It's easiest to do this with your fingers.

Slice the outer parts of the tomatoes into a fine dice, and place these little pieces in a sieve set over the bowl containing the tomato pulp. Drain for a few minutes, then set aside in a bowl (you'll add these bits to the sauce at the end).

Gently reheat the oil/butter mixture in the pan and add the crushed garlic. Cook over a low heat for 30-60 seconds, without letting the garlic brown.  Now hold your sieve over the pot, and into it tip the contents of the bowl containing the tomato pulp and juices.  Press down hard with the back of a soup ladle - or your fist - to extract every bit of juice.  Discard the remaining pulp.

Add the concentrated chicken stock and bring the butter/tomato juice mixture to a brisk simmer. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a minute.  Now stir in the cream, a splash at a time.  It's important to do this slowly - and off the heat - to prevent your sauce from curdling.

Simmer the browned chicken breasts in the creamy
sauce very gently, until just cooked through.
Return the pan to the heat and bubble over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. The sauce will soon thicken slightly, with the bubbles in the centre getting bigger and lazier. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, uncooked side down, along with the golden juices that have collected beneath them.

Simmer, uncovered, for about 4 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are just cooked through, but still very tender and succulent.

While the chicken is cooking, cut the basil leaves into fine shreds.  It's easiest to do this by stacking four or five leaves together, rolling them up into a tight 'cigar', then slicing them very finely crossways.

When the chicken is done, stir in the reserved diced tomato flesh and the shredded basil.

Add a spritz of lemon juice - just enough to give the sauce a slight pleasant acidity - and stir. Serve immediately with steamed veggies.

Serves 8, as a main course along with vegetables. 

Wine pairing by Michael Olivier

Môreson Dr Reason Why Unwooded Chardonnay 2013 - Franschhoek

It looks like: Beautiful gem-like citrine in colour in the glass.

It smells like: Tropical fruit, windfall citrus.

It tastes like: Crisp and fresh like a Granny Smith Apple.  Creamy desiccated pineapple, fresh sliced pear and the texture of ripe winter melon.  A wash of lime on the long aftertaste.

Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

No comments: