Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day Eve Dinner

The weather in Chicago has been pretty brutal lately, but I decided to warm things up with a special Valentine's Day meal. Two years ago, I produced an all-red meal for V-day, with rare beef, Red Mule grits, and red wine. I couldn't do that again, so I needed a new tack. A few days ago, I experienced a culinary stroke of brilliance.

It occurred to me that a whole boneless chicken breast is vaguely shaped like a heart. I realized that I could poach the breast in some red liquid, and produce a red chicken "heart." Red wine might have worked, but I figured that nothing stains a better red than beets. Charlie, always there to encourage a foolish idea, suggested that I could produce a sauce that would serve as an "ink" to write a message on the heart. I then chose a message.

First, I roasted some red baby beets in the oven and sauteed the beet stems with shallots, garlic, and chicken stock. Then I pureed the whole thing in the blender to produce the most beautiful magenta sauce.

Next, I butchered a whole chicken to remove the breast intact. The grocery store didn't have any whole breasts, so I had to do the butchering myself. I heated the beet puree to 165F (the desired final temperature of the chicken), and submerged the breast in the puree for about 20 minutes, flipping it half way through. This is essentially the same technique used in sous vide cooking, where the meat is cooked in liquid held at the target temperature so it cannot possibly be overcooked.

When the chicken was done, it had picked up a gorgeous pink color and was meltingly tender. I then added some of the puree to a plate in the shape of heart and placed the chicken in the center. Finally, I prepared an herb with basil, spinach, and parsley, and wrote my Valentine's Day message to Stephanie - "Beet Mine."

The chicken was delicious; the sauce was sweet and rich but balanced by the addition of some vinegar. I made a side of Calasparra rice and paired the meal with a delightful Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs nv. A bit gimmicky and not perfectly executed with the saucing, the dish was a fabulous success and will be worth repeating on normal evenings.


Matthew J. Harris said...

Chris, you're so weird. Loving, but weird.


Jonathan Everette said...

Chris, I love it when you cook but that looks too much like something I would find in a hazardous waste bag at the hospital. Liz

Laurence dSM said...

You are very inventive Chris, it can't leave us indifferent.
Have a nice weekend.