A Simple Winter Meal

To this day, my favorite thing to do in the kitchen when deciding what to cook for dinner, on the rare occasion that I have nothing planned, is to go to my refrigerator and create a meal. Now, it actually helps to have food in the refrigerator when doing this. Even an Iron Chef can’t create a meal with no ingredients.

Today I wanted something hearty and comforting. I happened to have chicken breasts and bacon, so those two items were the inspiration for this dish.

I’ve watched my fair share of cooking shows and competitions, and if a competitor ever chooses chicken with which to participate in a challenge, it’s like an automatic loss. Chicken just doesn’t have the magic that other meats do. Chicken breasts can be moist and lovely, but they must be cooked properly. Actually I can, and I have said that about all meats. But some meat can be slightly forgiving; chicken breasts are not.

Chicken is widely available in the U.S., and it’s fairly inexpensive, so it’s quite commonly used. Even better, if you’re watching your pennies, whole chickens are extremely inexpensive and can be easily broken down into breasts, thighs, and so forth.

I’ll show you what I do sometimes with chicken breasts to ensure a perfect cook, and present them in a way that’s perfect for a comforting winter meal. This dish isn’t fancy in any way, but if you’ve been dining on frozen pizza lately, you’ll think you’re dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I guarantee it!

Chicken Breasts with a Bacon Cream Sauce and Sautéed Apples
Serves 2

4 thick slices bacon
Splash of olive oil, if necessary
2 chicken breasts, close to room temperature
Salt
Pepper
3 shallots, diced
1/2 teaspoon chicken demi-glace
Reduced apple cider*, or apple juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Cream, about 1/3 cup
Thyme

Dry off the bacon with paper towels, if necessary. Then dice it.

Place the bacon in a hot skillet. Add a splash of olive oil if necessary. It depends how fatty your bacon is.

Cook the bacon until browned, then using a slotted spoon, place the bacon on paper towels to drain.

If there’s too much bacon grease in the skillet, remove some and save it for other purposes.

To prepare the chicken breasts, take a sharp knife and cut along each breast horizontally, to make two breast pieces that are more uniformly thick; one will be smaller and slightly thinner than the other. Pound any part of the chicken breast slices that are slightly thicker. Season with salt and pepper.

Place two of the chicken breasts in the skillet with the hot bacon grease. If you’re concerned about uneven cooking, cook the two same-sized breast pieces together. You can always use a thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature doesn’t go over 150 degrees.

Brown on both sides, and lower the heat slightly to cook the breasts completely, although properly. Place them on a plate and cover them loosely with foil.

Add the shallots and sauté them until soft and golden.
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Meanwhile, add the demi glace to a small measuring cup or bowl and all a little water to cover. Microwave until the water is hot and whisk in the demi-glace until fully incorporated. Have this, the reduced cider (see below), the mustard, and the cream on hand.

When the shallots are golden, pour in the demi-glace mixture, add the mustard, and then pour in the cider reduction.

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Stir well and cook for a minute. Then add cream. The amount of cream you use depends on how creamy you want your sauce. I kept mine slightly thick, but you could easily add twice as much as make a cream sauce.

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Sprinkle in a little dried thyme, if using, and taste sauce for seasoning. Then add the bacon and stir in well. This just softens the bacon. If you prefer, save it to sprinkle on the top of each serving.

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For each serving, I placed the larger and smaller chicken breasts on two plates.

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I divided the bacon cream sauce between the two plates, and used steamed green beans as the side.
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Just for fun, I sautéed a few apple slices, just to enhance the apple flavor in the sauce resulting from the reduced cider. Of course, this step is not necessary, it was just a fun addition.

If you do this, just a few apple slices is all you need.

So as you can see, a very delicious and hearty meal was created with the simplest of ingredients, namely chicken, bacon, shallots, apple cider, demi-glace, and cream. Onions could be substituted for the shallots, and broth could be substituted for the demi-glace. In the case of the apple cider, which in my case my hard cider, I have never come across a family that didn’t have some kind of apple juice in their refrigerator!

* A reduction, no matter what kind of liquid it is, is just that – a reduction of volume. Through a light simmer, you gently evaporate the liquid, which thickens it, and also creates a more concentrated flavor. Then it can be incorporated in a sauce, a vinaigrette, or a soup. It’s a simple technique, and one you should know.

I used a cider from Normandie which was a present from my mother; we happened to have about 2 cups leftover that would have gone flat. The Normandie region in France is famous for their apple-based booze, like Calvados.

From the 2 cups of cider, I ended up with about 1/4 cup of reduced cider, perfect to add to the above cream sauce.

By Published On: February 3rd, 201532 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

32 Comments

  1. thesinglegourmetandtraveller February 3, 2015 at 8:15 AM - Reply

    Delicious recipe, Mimi, and quite special even though you’re being modest about it! :)

    • chef mimi February 3, 2015 at 8:21 AM - Reply

      Well thank you, I’m just trying to make the point that good cooking is often simple, and you needn’t follow a recipe!

  2. aranislandgirl February 3, 2015 at 9:02 AM - Reply

    The bacon cream sauce and sautéed apples is the star of this post for sure. It would make even the cheapest frozen pizza a gourmet delight! Great details in the recipe and photos :)

  3. Our Growing Paynes February 3, 2015 at 9:46 AM - Reply

    Oh wow. I love this. Pinning this to try! :)

  4. apuginthekitchen February 3, 2015 at 11:02 AM - Reply

    Mimi that looks so good, I love chicken in a cream sauce. Totally agree’s it’s a fantastic winter meal.

  5. The Master Of Cook February 3, 2015 at 11:50 AM - Reply

    Delicious meal. I love chichen breasts, the sauce and the apples.
    I’m hungry now! :-)
    Emanuele

  6. Amanda Embry February 3, 2015 at 2:09 PM - Reply

    Of course, bacon makes everything better. :) On an unrelated note, I love those white scalloped plates.

    • chef mimi February 4, 2015 at 10:17 AM - Reply

      Thanks. Anthropologie. They have the cutest stuff!

  7. dianeskitchentable February 3, 2015 at 5:54 PM - Reply

    Whoa, this isn’t just any old chicken with bacon – this is super special chicken with bacon CREAM sauce! I love it. I can actually taste this combination & it’s doing wonderful things all over my tastebuds.

    • chef mimi February 4, 2015 at 10:17 AM - Reply

      Hahaha! Yes the bacon adds some great flavor!

  8. Michelle February 3, 2015 at 7:32 PM - Reply

    Boneless chicken breasts are so hard to do well. But you nailed it! Mmmm, cider…

    • chef mimi February 4, 2015 at 10:18 AM - Reply

      Thanks Michelle. I really detest when meat isn’t cooked properly! Pet peeve, I guess!

  9. anotherfoodieblogger February 3, 2015 at 8:23 PM - Reply

    I have some sparkling apple cider that’s gone flat in the fridge, would that be suitable to reduce for this? We eat chicken all the time, too. And bacon. Lovely, simple meal!

    • chef mimi February 4, 2015 at 10:20 AM - Reply

      Absolutely it would work. I reduce everything that’s leftover – wine, juice, champagne, etc. It adds great flavor. A very simple meal indeed!

  10. Abbe Odenwalder February 3, 2015 at 11:18 PM - Reply

    I would love this dish! What a classic and I actually have cider in the fridge. And tomorrow it is going to snow!

    • chef mimi February 4, 2015 at 10:21 AM - Reply

      Perfect! Definitely a good winter dish!

  11. dedy oktavianus pardede February 4, 2015 at 5:44 AM - Reply

    simply damn delicious!!!
    bacon made everything taste better…

    • chef mimi February 4, 2015 at 10:21 AM - Reply

      You are so right! And I love sauteing in bacon grease!

  12. Main St. Cuisine February 4, 2015 at 1:16 PM - Reply

    Beautiful meal, Chef Mimi and something I may work into our menu plan for next week. I too prepare a lot of chicken and have been exploring other meats to add into rotation. However, a bacon-cream sauce would be welcome here. My guys love their bacon (added to just about anything)!

    • chef mimi February 6, 2015 at 3:48 PM - Reply

      Guys and bacon do seem to go together, don’t they?!!

  13. Sadia Mohamed February 8, 2015 at 8:50 AM - Reply

    I loove chicken with cream sauce, and it looks very easy too.

  14. DellaCucinaPovera February 9, 2015 at 3:38 AM - Reply

    Simple meals are the best; though shallots and bacon make anything just a tid bit more fancy :)

  15. love in the kitchen February 9, 2015 at 11:41 PM - Reply

    this looks so delicious Mimi. Perfect flavour combination. The whole thing made my mouth water.

  16. milkandbun February 12, 2015 at 12:26 AM - Reply

    Everything is better with bacon! :D Never seen or bought glazes, what does it contain? and what it gives?

    • chef mimi February 12, 2015 at 9:55 AM - Reply

      demi-glace? It’s an extremely reduced broth/stock. It ends up a paste. Strong broth flavor from just 1/2 teaspoon or so.

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