Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vanilla Chicken with Chocolate Bacon Sauce

Okay, here's an insane idea for you. I thought of it as I thawed some chicken breasts in the microwave. It could be awesome. But it could also be horrible. There's only one way to find out :)

Marinade 4 chicken breasts (or thighs, if you prefer dark meat) in the following mixture for several hours.

1 cup chicken juices or broth
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

We took advantage of the beautiful weather and cooked ours on the grill, at a fairly low temperature to keep them from drying out. You could just as easily pan fry or bake these. Save the marinade; you'll be using it in the sauce.

While the chicken is cooking, start your sauce. You will need:
2 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
Marinade mixture
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk or cream
1 tsp vanilla
sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste.

Start the bacon frying in a large skillet. When grease begins to melt out, add the onion. Fry until onions are thoroughly caramelized. Next, pull the skillet off the burner momentarily and melt the chocolate into the bacon and onions. Now, pour in the remaining marinade mixture and stir. The wine will start to curdle with the chocolate, but don't be alarmed; this will be resolved shortly. Gradually sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly. Slowly add milk. Season to taste. I used about 1/4 cup of sugar, but it could've been sweeter. Simmer until sauce begins to thicken, stirring frequently. Add cooked chicken to sauce and simmer for a few minutes on each side.

Serve with white rice, a good dark green vegetable (such as broccoli or asparagus), and a light, biscuity ale (we had fat tire).

The verdict? Well, this little experiment turned out to be quite tasty and interesting. It's simultaneously sweet and savory, and definitely unconventional. The sauce took a good bit of tweaking to get right, and I'm curious to hear your variations and improvements. This dish falls somewhere between an Indian and a Mexican palate; almost like a mole sauce with warmer, sweeter spices. It complemented the chicken very nicely.

Things I might do differently next time:
1. Marinade the chicken longer than 1 hour. The vanilla definitely came through, but it would be better to let it soak in more thoroughly.
2. Experiment with the amount of chocolate. It might be better with a bit less.
3. More sugar, perhaps brown instead of white.
4. More bacon can never hurt anything.
5. This sauce might be even better on steak.
A few weeks ago, my friend Jill asked for volunteers to join her in writing a cookie blog. I signed up, and promptly wrote a blog entry about cupcakes. I've since created several interesting non-cookie culinary items that I thought would be fun to write about, but I don't want to make a habit of clogging up the Cookie Clubhouse with all of my crazy non-cookie projects.

So I decided to create a place to share my kitchen adventures. Thanks to Swoopy for coming up with the name. (On a side note, if you haven't yet, you should check out her podcast, Skepticality. It is excellent.) I was completely stumped, and every time I thought I'd come up with something clever and original, a quick Google search told me it wasn't quite as clever and original as I imagined. So I did what any self respecting 21st century internet addict would do: I asked Twitter.

What will you find here? Well, I'm a bit of an artist in the kitchen. That's not to say the things I come up with are invariably successful or awesome, but that I rarely stick to a recipe, and my style is highly improvisational. I am not a formally educated chef. My knowledge comes from watching my mother cook, and from my own constant culinary experimentation. Expect to find interesting spins on classics, weird flavor combinations, and light-hearted fun.

Stay tuned!