Cajun Chicken with Beurre Blanc
Inspired by the coveted off-menu dish from Le Charlot and Le Bilboquet.
For years my friends have been raving about "the Cajun chicken," which is not actually on the menu, at Le Charlot (and Le Bilboquet) and have been begging me to taste it and see if I could recreate it at home. Taste it and reverse-engineer I did! It's such a simple yet succulent dish: a spice-rubbed, pan-seared chicken breast served with a butter sauce, a classic green salad, and French fries. Everyone loves how moist and tender the meat is, and how luscious it tastes with the butter sauce. Each bite is improved by placing a few dressed lettuce leaves on your fork to balance the richness of the sauce and spice of the chicken. This dish is so easy to make at home that you can go to Le Charlot or Le Bilboquet and order something else!
Equipment: cutting board; chef’s knife; paring knife; wet measuring cup; measuring spoons; small mixing bowl; spoon; large nonstick sauté pan or cast iron skillet with a tight fitting lid; wooden spoon; small sauté pan; tongs
Ingredients for the Cajun spice blend:
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Ingredients for the beurre blanc: 2 shallots, finely minced ¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 tablespoons
kosher salt and ground white pepper juice of half a lemon
Ingredients for the chicken:
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, approximately 7-8 ounces each
3 tablespoons Cajun spice rub
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
red wine vinaigrette
1. First prepare the spice mix. In a small mixing bowl, combine the spices. Reserve 3 tablespoons and set aside. Store the remaining spice mix in an airtight container at room temperature.
ILOC tip: if you don't want to use white pepper, you can double either the cayenne or the black pepper instead. The important thing is to have equal parts pepper to salt.
2. Next, begin to prepare the beurre blanc. Place the shallots, wine, and vinegar in a small sauté pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and simmer until all but one tablespoon of moisture remains. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
3. Now make the chicken. Pat the chicken dry using paper towels. Drizzle both sides of each breast with the olive oil, then sprinkle generously with the spice mixture and rub all over. Set aside.
ILOC tip: use your hands to coat the chicken with the oil and Cajun spice. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you proceed to the next step.
4. Place a large nonstick sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot add the chicken to the pan without crowding. Cook for 3-4 minutes, undisturbed without moving the chicken. Turn the chicken pieces and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook the chicken for 8-10 minutes.
"The slow-and-low covered pan cooking method is the secret to this dish's success. The chicken must sear without the spice rub burning while also remaining moist and juicy, all the while being cooked thoroughly. It's all about technique, not torture!"
5. Meanwhile, finish the beurre blanc.
6. Return the pan with the shallot reduction to a medium-high heat. Once sizzling again, add 1 tablespoon of cold butter to the pan, lower the heat to medium-low and incorporate into the reduction by swirling with a wooden spoon. Once the butter has been incorporated, add the next tablespoon in the same manner. Repeat until all of the butter has been emulsified in the sauce so that when you run your finger through the back of the spoon coated in beurre blanc the sauce holds its shape.
7. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, and some kosher salt and white pepper to taste, if desired. Add more lemon juice, if desired, but do so carefully so that the sauce remains emulsified and does not "break." Set aside.
8. Lift the lid and confirm that the chicken is cooked through by touching it with your index finger. If the chicken is firm and springs back to the touch it is cooked; if the chicken is more supple then return the lid and cook for 3-4 minutes longer.
ILOC tip: the larger the chicken breast - in particular the more plump the breast is - the longer it will take to cook.
9. Remove the chicken from the pan to a clean cutting board and allow it to rest for 2-3 minutes so the flesh stays juicy and moist. Slice each chicken breast crosswise into approximately 8 slices. Place each sliced breast on a plate with some dressed salad greens. Spoon the beurre blanc generously over the chicken. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.