Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chef Clement

This week we had another cooking class on the base with Chef Clement. Clement is this amazingly talented chef, with 24 years of professional experience, whose wife is in the Navy and like me, is an unemployed Navy spouse with two boys the same age as ours. Instead of moping around the house, eating chips and watching Oprah (hey, don't knock it!), Clement has been cooking for scouts and other events and fundraisers, teaching classes at the community center and making friends all over the base with his awesome offerings. His sourdough garlic bread is to die for. This week he made the plate you see here: Chicken Tarragon in a Sherry Cream Sauce, and on the side, Couscous with Roasted Veggies. As if that wasn't enough to see on a plate, he chopped rose petals and added an edible pansy to decorate the plate.

The fun of the class is that we get to take home the recipe, and when the cooking is done, we feast. The chicken was great although the recipe is a bit complicated and does include heavy cream. I made the couscous in my typical shortcut busy mom fashion: stir a bunch of veggies into some olive oil and add instant couscous mix.

Here is the recipe:

Chicken Tarragon in a Sherry Cream Sauce from Chef Clement

1/2 cup flour
10 oz boneless skinless chicken breast pounded nicely
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp shallots
1 tsp tarragon
4 quartered mushrooms, large
3 oz dry sherry
6 oz chicken broth
2 dashes Tabasco
2 dashes worcestershire
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 dashes lemon juice
3 artichoke hearts
3 oz heavy cream
2Tbsp scallions, sliced
2 Tbsp tomato, diced
salt to taste

Dredge the chicken in flour, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken to pan and gently sear for two minutes. Turn chicken over and add garlic, shallots, tarragon and mushrooms, to side of pan. Add the sherry and reduce for a minute. Add chicken broth, Tabasco, mustard, lemon juice and artichoke hearts. Reduce liquid by half. Turn chicken over and add cream. Reduce until sauce is thick. Remove from heat. Fold in tomatoes and scallions, and adjust seasoning with salt as needed.

Now I made this on my own the next day, with a few changes. First, I used more tomato and mushrooms and artichoke hearts, because I am not one to put three mushrooms and 1/2 of a tomato in saran wrap back in the fridge, along with a few artichoke hearts. Also, I didn't have heavy cream so used milk and a bit of corn starch. And, since the Ikego base mini-mart didn't have dry cooking sherry but instead had every other kind of alcohol (which makes up roughly 1/3 of the entire stock of the store) I used some cheapish red wine instead. Oh, and of course, I had to remove one plain cooked piece of chicken from the pan and save it on a plate for Prince Pickybelle. Still good! Still lots of work also. And, tastes great the next morning for breakfast.

This is what separates Chef Clement from regular folks like me and other busy moms who look at cooking as a chore and like to make dinner in 30 mins or less: he loves to cook and take the time with it, to make things taste amazing. And he's not opposed to adding copious amounts of olive oil or heavy cream to get the job done properly, or spending the whole day in the kitchen to make a homemade soup stock, starting from the bones.

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