This recipe is a great example of why I love French Cuisine: A few simple ingredients, prepared simply, producing a unique flavor. Chicken breast braised in apple cider and brandy, served with sautéed apples and a cream sauce. (I apologize for the quality of the photo. We’ve moved out into the country, 50 miles from the big city. I’m still getting my arms around everything.) This is a way to turn a blah boring chicken breast into something wonderful and suitable for a fine dining experience.
Calvados is one of five administrative ‘departments’ of Normandy. Calvados is where Omaha and Juno Beach reside. It is where Julia Child first experienced Sole Meunière. It is a landscape of meadows, timbered barns, cows, cheese, seafood, and apples. Do you like Camembert cheese? A single cheesemaker might be offering an array of Camemberts of varying ages, each with a different taste and texture. When I die can I want to go to Calvados instead of heaven?
Poulet Vallee D’Auge is a common dish in Calvados and has many variations. I’ve tried to make it as authentic as possible. While I have eschewed shortcuts, a will provide them as well. One shortcut I did take: Classically this dish uses a cut up chicken – breast, wings, thighs, and drumsticks. It’s just my Sweet Lady Wife and I, so prepared it with just two breast halves. Sweet Lady Wife pronounced it a ‘keeper’.
A Note About The Butter
You are going to brown the chicken in butter. In my experience nothing browns chicken or fish as well as butter. The reason for clarified butter or ghee (same thing) is that it’s smoke point is higher that regular butter and that too contributes to the browning. I use 2-3 tablespoons of clarified butter, turn the heat way up, and when the first wisps of smoke appear I put the chicken in the pan.
A Note About the Crème Fraîche
I wanted to be as authentic as possible so I used Crème Fraîche for the creme sauce. It is somewhere between sour creme and heavy creme in taste and thickness. You could substitute heavy whipping cream and just reduce it a little more.
A Note About the Calvados
Calvados is an apple brandy from Normandy. Unlike most American apple brandies, Calvados is aged in oak barrels for two years and is a little more ‘oak-y’. American apple brandies are a little more ‘apple-y’. I have a bottle of Calvados simply because I’m doing a bunch of Norman recipes. If you don’t have Calvados or other apple brandy then use regular brandy.
About the Bouquet Garni
Bouquet Garni is simply thyme, parsley, a bay leaf, and whole peppercorns tied up in cheesecloth (see adjacent photo).
- 2 Chicken breast halves
- Butter (clarified butter or ghee if you have it) for browning
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 1 Carrot, finely chopped
- 8oz Apple cider
- 8oz Chicken stock
- Bouquet garni
- 4oz Brandy (Calvados or other apple brandy if you have it)
- 7-8oz Crème Fraîche
- 2oz unsalted butter (for garnish)
- 2 Apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the clarified button in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Watch the pan carefully. When the clarified butter emits the first few wisps of smoke it’s time to put the chicken breasts into the pan presentation-side down. Monitor the chicken carefully. When it releases from the pan the bottom side should be a nice golden brown. Flip the chicken over and brown the other side. Let it brown for a minute or so. Remove the chicken from the pan to a separate plate and tent with foil to keep it warm.
Lower the heat and add the onion and carrot to the pan. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.
Add the apple cider and chicken stock to the pan, and scrape up and browned bit stuck to the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil then lower the heat. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Heat the Calvados in a small pan. Light it to burn off the alcohol and let it reduce by half. Add the Calvados to the chicken. Cook for another 15 minutes and then remove the chicken from the pan to a separate plate and tent with foil to keep it warm.
Make the Sauce
Strain the liquid to remove the onion, carrot, and other solids. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the Crème Fraîche. Simmer until the sauce reduces to your desired consistency.
Make the Garnish
Melt the 2oz of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the apples and cook until they are tender and golden on both sides.
Pour some sauce on the plate. Place the chicken breast in the middle. Arrange the apple slices around the chicken breast.