Sustenance for leaf-peepers

Entertaining

October 10, 2004|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

I donM-Ft have to glance at my calendar or look outside at the trees with their multihued foliage to know that fall is in full swing in Massachusetts. The phone calls and emails from friends, telling me that they will be in our area in October M-y prime time for leafpeeping M-y remind me that a new season has arrived. Nowhere in the country is autumn more celebrated than in New England and, as a result, it is a time when my husband and I entertain frequently.

Since many of these visits are last-minute, I look for simple main courses that can be prepared quickly to anchor company meals. Sauteed Chicken Breasts With Wild Mushrooms, a dish I recently created, falls into this category.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts With Wild Mushrooms

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) mixed dried mushrooms such as porcini, oyster and shiitake

1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves (don't use powdered thyme)

2 teaspoons dried sage leaves, crushed (don't use powdered sage)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 boneless, skinless whole chicken breasts (total weight about 1 1/3 pounds), pounded to 1/4 - to 1/2 -inch thick (see note)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup light cream or half-and-half

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons extra, if needed

5 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided

4 fresh thyme sprigs for garnish, optional

Place mushrooms in a medium bowl. Bring 2 cups water to a boil and pour over the mushrooms. Let stand until mushrooms are softened and plumped, about 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms in a paper towel-lined strainer, reserving soaking liquid. Rinse mushrooms to remove any remaining grit and pat dry, then chop them coarsely. Measure the mushroom liquid; you should have 1 cup. If not, add enough water to make this amount.

Combine thyme, sage, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper in a small bowl. Pat chicken breasts dry with a clean paper towel Sprinkle both sides of each breast with some of the dried herb mixture.

Heat butter and oil in a very large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and cover loosely with foil.

Add chicken broth, reserved mushroom liquid, cream or half-and-half, and lemon juice to the pan, and whisk to combine drippings in pan with liquids.

Cook, whisking often, until mixture thickens very slightly and has reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 4 to 5 minutes or longer, depending on the size of pan. Whisk in 1/2 cup cheese until it melts. Sauce will be slightly thicker; if desired, whisk in an additional 2 to 3 tablespoons cheese to give sauce more body.

Stir mushrooms and half of the parsley into the sauce. Cook a few seconds to warm mushrooms. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, spoon some sauce and mushrooms over each chicken breast, then sprinkle with some of the remaining parsley. Garnish each serving with a thyme sprig, if desired.

Note: To pound chicken breasts, remove the small strip of meat from the underside of each chicken breast and save for another use. Place a chicken breast between 2 sheets of waxed paper and, using a meat pounder or rolling pin, pound to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Continue, using more waxed paper as needed, until all chicken has been pounded.

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