Friday I had this idea that I was going to cook chicken using vanilla and vermouth. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do, I just knew that it would involve those things and that it was going to be AWESOME.
I went to the butcher a few blocks away. His name is Jimmy, he’s a great guy. He’s been butchering in this store for probably more than 30 years. He saw me standing there staring into the meat case and asked me if I knew what I wanted, or if I was still thinking. I said, “No, I’m ready, I know what I want.” I placed my order for the chicken and he asked, “What’re you gonna do with it?” I said, “Well, I’m gonna cook it with vanilla and vermouth.” He looked at me appraisingly. “You sure about that?” he asked. “I am,” I said. “You got a recipe, or are you….” “No, I’m just making shit up,” I said happily, “but I’ve got a feeling it’s gonna be good.”
He bagged up the chicken and wrapped it in paper. “You know what could go good with that,” he said. “A little of that Chinese spice, what’s it called, the little stars.” “Star anise!” I said. “That’s an interesting idea, but I think first time I’m gonna keep it simple.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Jimmy admitted. “Let me know how it goes, I’m curious to hear.” I said I’d be sure to tell him. Then I went home and I put the chicken in the fridge and I thought about it and thought about it. I went online and did some poking around to see if a recipe like what I had in mind was already out there. There were definitely chicken recipes that called for vanilla, but none I saw matched what I had in my head. I considered the possibilities for how to create this, and took action. Step 1: put chicken into freezer, to make it freeze just enough so it’d be easier to slice into nice even medallions. Step 2: put some flour into a bowl, add about a teaspoon of vanilla powder and a half teaspoon of salt. Mix together with a fork, set aside.
After about twenty minutes, I took the chicken out of the freezer and cut the medallions, which I then put into the bowl of flour. I tossed the chicken around to coat it all nicely. Then I took out a big pan and heated up some butter and began to fry the medallions. I let each side brown nicely and then put them on a sheet in the (preheated) oven to stay hot. When the chicken was all taken care of, I deglazed the pan with about 1/3 of a cup of sweet vermouth mixed with two teaspoons of vanilla extract. I let this cook for a moment, and then whisked in cream, maybe a cupful (I didn’t measure). In a separate pan, I sautéed until nicely browed a package of little baby bella mushrooms. (If I’d not forgotten the mushrooms, which were sitting, prepped and ready in a colander on the other side of the sink, I’d’ve done them in the first pan after cooking the chicken but before deglazing it: next time, I’ll save myself the trouble of dirtying a second pan. This time, though, it wasn’t the end of the world: I wound up using the second pan to cook a side of broccoli anyhow.) When the mushrooms were done, I let them simmer a while in the brought-to-a-boil and then just keeping warm cream sauce.
In the meantime, I cooked broccoli and made mashed potatoes. Both were fine. But the chicken was, I have to say, really really good. My husband expressed some skepticism that any leftovers would make for good sandwiches, but I waved this away: I knew they would be great. And they were. In fact, the next day, at lunch, he sat down and declared the chicken sandwich he’d built (leftover chicken; mayo; sliced green olives) very good indeed. “This chicken makes for a superlative chicken sandwich,” he said. Quote, unquote. So the naysayers can go back into their kitchens and stare glumly at their pieces of raw chicken and ponder. I say, I would never have believed it, but there is a chicken dish that has no onion and no garlic that’s really good. This is it. Chicken with vanilla and vermouth. You heard it here.
The problem still remains, however: what will we eat for dinner now that it’s Sunday night. Some takeout Chinese would really be great.