Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Morton's Steak Bible: Chicken Christopher

I was given the Morton’s Steak Bible as a gift last year and made the well loved Chicken Christopher for Jim as soon as I had the recipe. The Beurre Blanc sauce (like everything else in the book) is full of butter. Lots and lots of butter. But this chicken dish is SO good.

Morton’s label this a French-style sauce that is easy to make and endlessly versatile. Cooking the wine until it nearly evaporates adds great flavor to the sauce, and adding the buter a tablespoon at a tme turns it silken. Take your time when you make this; you will be rewarded with a smooth, satiny sauce with subtle but gorgeous flavor. You can serve this with salmon, chicken, shrimp or over pasta.

I’m in the mood to make this again and blog about it so here is what you need to make about 2 cups Beurre Blanc sauce.
1 teaspoon Clarified Butter
1 large shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)
1/3 cup dry white wine (I’m using Bonterra Chardonnay)
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper
One thing I’m trying to do is prep all my ingredients at the beginning before I start cooking. Here is what everything looks like measured out.
Let’s talk about Clarified Butter or "Ghee." I can only find it at Whole Foods, my HEB and Randall’s does not carry it. The reason Morton’s suggest using clarified butter is because it can be heated to higher temperatures, and because the milk solids have been removed, it keeps very well. When refrigerated, it solidifies and turns a little grainy, but melts easily and becomes liquid again.

If you cannot find clarified butter, here is how you can make 1 cup yourself:

15 tablespoons unsalted butter
9 tablespoons unsalted margarine

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and margarine. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until completely melted and simmering gently.
  2. Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, or until the solids settle on the bottom of the pan. Skim the foam off the top and discard.
  3. Carefully pour or ladle the, liquid butter into a storage container and leave the milk solids in the pan. Discard the solids. Let the butter cool and then refrigerate the clarified butter for up to 1 week.
Back to the recipe. Everything is prepped, we are ready to start the sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat the Clarified Butter over medium-low heat.
Add the shallot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until it softens without coloring. (what does that mean? I have no idea. I simply set a 3 minutes timer.) Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the wine reduces and the liquid coats the bottom of the pan. (Again, no idea what that description means, I simply set a timer for 4 minutes.)
Add the cream and simmer, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until reduced by half.

Reduce the heat to low and begin adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition. Do not allow the cream to boil once the butter is added. I did this exactly as it told me to.
The sauce was beautiful, creamy and thick. The next step is to remove the pan from the heat. Using a handheld immersion blender, beat for 5 to 10 seconds, or until smooth. Lift the beater and then immerse again and beat for a few seconds. Repeat this process to produce a silken sauce. If you do not have a handheld immersion blender, do this in an electric mixer or by hand. The immersion blender does the best job.
Well, the immersion blender is on my wish list, so I used my blender.
Everything was perfect until this point. I think the blender is what threw me off. The recipe calls for the addition of lemon juice, salt and white pepper. I added this to the blender and pulsed for a few more seconds.
The recipe says “Add the lemon juice and salt and season to taste with pepper. Stir to blend. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve or a chinois into a small saucepan.”
When I strained back into my saucepan I thought right away that the sauce looked like it wasn’t incorporated, it was pulling a part.
Morton’s says to keep the sauce warm over low heat, making sure the temperature remains 110 to 120 F for up to 1 hour, or until ready to serve.

I did everything verbatim with the exception of adding the lemon, salt and pepper to the blender, and I think the sauce cooled off a little (just a little) while I made the chicken. But seriously I felt the sauce was falling a part as soon as I poured it from the blender.
On to the CHICKEN! It’s named for the Morton’s corporate chef, Chris Rook, who came up with the recipe several years ago. This dish is tender and light; the trick is to pound the chicken just enough that the pieces are uniformly thin and cook evenly and quickly. The recipe serves 6, I only made two chicken breasts, but I’m putting the full recipe here.

What you need for the chicken:
4 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 to 4 cups bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 ¼ cups clarified butter
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups Beurre Blanc
3 tablespoons chopped fresh curly-leaf parsley
Let’s start by prepping all our ingredients. I have an assembly line of flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs.

I like to put my chicken in zip top bags so that when I flatten them with my mega mallot their juice doesn’t spurt all over the place. You want an even thickness of about 1/2 inch.
Dry the chicken off with a paper towel.
Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Chop the shallot.
Measure out 2 tablespoons minced garlic. I use garlic so much I just keep a large jar in the fridge.

I’m going to serve the Chicken Christopher and Beurre Blanc sauce over fettuccini so I got my water boiling and now add my noodles to cook for 10 minutes or until al dente.

Go ahead and take this time to chop your parsley too.
In a large sauté pan, melt 1 1/2 cups of the clarified butter over medium heat.
Now work your way down the assembly line. First dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.
Then dip the chicken in the egg wash, letting any excess drip back into the bowl.
Coat the chicken completely with the bread crumbs.
Add the chicken and cook for about 1 ½ minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp.
Looks Perfect!
Repeat with the rest of your chicken and then set aside on a platter.
Cover with foil to keep warm while you complete the sauce.

My fettuccini is complete and perfect. Drain.
In another pan (yes, this is like the fifth pan I’ve dirtied) melt the remaining 3/4 cup butter over medium heat and sauté the shallots and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes, or until translucent.

Add the Beurre Blanc and parsley, and stir well. When I picked up my Beurre Blanc sauce it was completely separated with cream particals on the bottom and oil-butter floating on the top. I didn’t think it could be saved, but I added it to the shallots and garlic anyway.
I thought I might cry at this point. At the time I wasn’t sure (and still am not positive) what I did wrong. I’ve done this before!! The sauce is awful, (smells wonderful) but looks and taste oily.
I poured it into a glass bowl to show you just what I was dealing with.
Jim walks in because the yummy smells from the kitchen are wafting into the living room. Before he can speak (and I know he’s about to say, “smells good, when is lunch going to be ready.”) I hold up a hand across the island and tell him I’m very upset because the sauce didn’t turn out and it would be best if he didn’t say anything. He kissed me on the back of my neck and left the kitchen.

This was upsetting, yes but I knew this wasn’t going to be a complete loss. I had two beautifully breaded and cooked chickens and perfectly cooked pasta….. what do I have on hand to save this meal?
Canned pastas sauce, fresh mozzarella and parmesan. Chicken parmesan here we come.
I removed the foil from the chicken and placed it on a baking pan, put my chickens on top and tore some mozzarella and placed on top.
I was so uderly flustered that I opened my pasta sauce over an open drawer and spilled. Slow down Mandy!
I put just a couple tablespoons of sauce on top of the mozzarella.

Then used my new zester to grate fresh parmesan on top of it all. Into the oven it went, under the 500 degree broiler for about eight minutes.
Meanwhile, I dumped the rest of the sauce on top of the linguini.
I was heartbroken that all those great ingredients in the beurre blanc were going to be tossed so I decided to try and save some. I strained the seperated liquid and was left with the parsley, garlic and shallots, and some bits of cream I think.
I added about a tablespoon of the mush to the sauce. It tasted like strong garlic and onion so I didn't think it could hurt.

To my surprise, the meal looked great.
And obviously tasted good too!!


  1. Sorry your buerre blanc and chicken christopher didn't work! It sounds complicated. But at least you had some ingredients on hand to save the meal. That was pretty clever :)

  2. Wow! So glad it all worked out in the end! I must say, I like you improvised the "mush" into the sauce, I bet it added great flavor!! Your dinner looks delicious and now I am craving some chicken parmesean and pasta!!

  3. Very nice. I love it. I have that book too and haven't even cracked it open yet. :(

    I can't believe you can make a meal and take so many pictures. I have a hard time with taking one! :)

  4. Wow! You really saved the day. So sorry the sauce didn't turn out. Food can be so finicky sometimes.

    I want some Chicken Parm now!

  5. wow, I have the same book and haven't opened it yet. :( Your meal looks awesome. I don't know how you find the time to take all the pictures. I have a hard time with just one picture per meal. :)

  6. I like the fact that you saved the mush and still used it :)

  7. Awwww! I just want to give you a hug. I remember these days, wanting SO hard for a sauce to come out, quickly grabbing something else, dropping it or spilling it all over the floor, burning myself in the process, wanting to cry, and wanting to make it all look so easy for my new husband.

    The very fact you are trying so hard and want so badly for it all to work, means you are going to be a GREAT cook in a VERY short period of time. Trust me!

    Your final dish looks and sounds fantastic. That's a true cook -- one who can make up a dish on the spot to save the day. Not one who can just follow instructions.

  8. Hi, I found your site on the Foodie Blogroll, and I'm here to help! I'm guessing that this sauce just has too much fat in it. (Not something you'll hear me say very often, but there it is.) For starters, leave out the clarified butter and the cream. The whole point of a classic beurre blanc is that it is basically melted butter that is still emulsified with a few intense flavors. (Think Hollandaise without the egg yolks.)

    Here's how I make beurre blanc. Place minced shallots and white wine into a small saucepan or sauté pan. A little vinegar is usually welcome, too. Reduce until the liquid is almost gone. (This is an important step - too much liquid and your emulsion won't hold.) Then, slowly, over low heat, add pieces of cold butter one at a time, swirling to incorporate between each addition. If you want to try keeping it warm, remember to swirl the sauce every now and then to maintain the emulsion. I usually make this last thing before serving, while the meat is resting, for example.

    Hope that helps!

  9. Yeah, I make my beurre blance like croquecamille does. I think another part of the problem was adding lemon juice to the cream. The lemon curdled the cream. If you add lemon over heat it seems to be stable but like that you are asking for trouble.


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