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Pan Frying and Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks » digest LA
mercury ball

Water test at mercury ball stage

Last week, I stumbled across the web site rouxbe.com for culinary instruction. Most of the videos require membership, but the Pan Frying lesson is currently available for free.  I learned a lot from watching it, including the right way to do the water test for a pan’s heat. When a stainless steel pan is the right temperature for pan frying, water dropped into the pan will form a mercury ball and bounce around on the pan. It skates along the surface of the pan indicating that food you put into the pan will not stick. You should also put the presentation side of what you are cooking down first to cook because it will get the best brown on it.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks

Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks

Armed with my new found knowledge about pan frying, I decided to try making Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks from the Le Cordon Bleu Quick Classics. This dish is one of my weeknight favorites, but in the past it was always made for me. I tried making it last week, but it turned out awful. The dish is simply chicken breast stuffed with leeks (that have been sauteed in lots of butter) with a sherry and mushroom sauce. It is simple and delicious.

The first thing that I realized when making this is that it isn’t really pan frying. The chicken is cooked in a combination of oil and butter and basted throughout cooking. I brought my pan to the right temperature, added the butter and it immediately began to burn. I cleaned out the pan, lowered the temperature and used clarified butter that I happened to have prepared already. Last time I made it, the chicken took forever to cook and the brown in the pan got overcooked and wasn’t suitable to deglaze for the sauce. This time, I pounded the chicken so that it wouldn’t take quite so long to cook. Of course, it made stuffing the chicken breasts pretty difficult. I also didn’t get quite the brown I was hoping for on the chicken.

I think this recipe is a good candidate for me to practice regularly until I really get it down. It can be expanded in different ways. I could start buying a whole chicken and breaking it down to the chicken breasts. All the scraps would be perfect for making stock. I can play more with using clarified butter or making it use less butter in general. I welcome any suggestions and will keep you posted.

  • The Dad

    I assume that you could saute in vegetable oil and add butter later as a flavoring. And you could cut the pocket in the chicken breast, insert wax paper, maybe folded over for extra oomph, before pounding it to the desired thinness. The pocket ought to survive and be ready for stuffing. But if you want to make it thin — I like thin — and stuffed, you could roll it rather than stuffing it.

  • Evan

    It sounds to me like something that needs to be braised (or poached) in liquid. I do this with chicken breast sometimes and it works if you add enough liquid. Brown the chicken first and then add the sherry. No need to pound it.

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