I was housebound last weekend and had a hard time just "resting" to get over this cold. Lying down was actually not restful since I had a harder time breathing when I'm horizontal. Sitting on my couch in front of the TV gets old after several episodes of Criminal Minds, NCIS and Law and Order, all of which I've already seen multiple times. So I spent time in the kitchen, not only baking but also cooking. Anything to further my baking/cooking challenge to make at least one recipe from every cookbook I own. I can't even remember how long I've had this book or why I bought it. It was probably during one of my more optimistic moments when I thought I was going to learn how to cook. Umpteenth years later, this is the first recipe I've made from this book.
While this recipe was easy to make, it also reinforced to me that I'm NOT a cook. I bake. I don't cook. Any real cook will tell you that following a recipe doesn't make you a cook. It might lead you to make something edible (or not) but that's not necessarily "cooking". And the reason I came to this conclusion is the comedy of errors I experienced in making this dish. It seemed straightforward enough: brown the chicken, throw the ingredients together for the sauce, let boil, serve. Ha! First, I apparently can't tell the difference between a scallion and a shallot. Scallions are also known as green onions. I call them green onions. I know what a green onion is. I've even cooked with green onions. But apparently my befuddled mind mixed up the two and I used a shallot instead. Shallots are a small, brown form of an onion. They are not scallions. Just so you know.
Second, I didn't have brandy in the house since I don't drink but I do have rum because I've used it in past baking recipes. So I used rum instead of brandy. Third, I also didn't have fromage frais and didn't even know what it was until I googled it. Apparently you can get it in Europe. I don't live in Europe. And they don't sell it at Target. Some sites said you can substitude low-fat cream cheese for fromage frais so that's what I did. Except I didn't have the low-fat version so I used full-fat cream cheese. So let's review this so far: I don't like the taste of rum, I don't like the tang of cream cheese and shallots aren't high on my list of things to taste or flavor food with. Why did I make this recipe then? Not just because it looked simple but it was also supposed to be an orange sauce. Strike three. Despite using 1 1/4 cups of orange juice (freshly squeezed from real oranges, mind you), I could barely taste the orange flavor in the sauce. Probably because it was overwhelmed by the shallots, the rum and the full-fat cream cheese. Sigh. For the final insult to my cooking injury, I forgot to salt and pepper the darn thing "to taste".
This is not my finest moment - "it's edible" is the kindest thing I can say about my cooking efforts. Made properly, this might actually be a good dish. The texture itself was sinfully rich and creamy, it was just the taste I wasn't wild about. If I venture to make it again, I would skip the rum or brandy entirely, cut back on the cream cheese (and actually use the low-fat version), jack up the orange juice and use honest-to-goodness green onions (scallions!). And not forget the salt and pepper.
8 skinless chicken thighs or drumsticks
3 tablespoons brandy (I used rum)
1 ¼ cups orange juice
3 scallions, chopped
2 teaspoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons low-fat fromage frais (substitute low-fat cream cheese)
Salt and ground black pepper
1. Cook the chicken pieces without fat in a nonstick or heavy pan, turning until they are evenly browned.
2. Stir in the brandy, orange juice and scallions. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and fully cooked.
3. Blend the cornstarch with a little water, then stir the paste into the fromage frais. Stir this into the sauce and stir over medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens.
4. Adjust the seasoning and serve with boiled rice or pasta and green salad.