On Tuesday, I bethought myself of all the leftover chicken breasts from the clambake. Out of consideration for my husband, who get home around 7:30 when he's early and more like 8:00 or 8:30 the rest of the time, I decided I could start cooking again. I wrote him a note asking him to boil the chicken breasts and save the water, because I hadn't exactly read the recipe for this dish, but I suspected it had jellied chicken broth on it.
I got home from physical therapy and found son-the-lawyer who had been asking me to help him figure out how to clean his room. I recalled a co-worker who once suggested I clean off my desk with a flamethrower. In son's case, an earth mover would be more to the purpose. Therapy always leaves me wrung out and unable to walk, so I staggered upstairs, collapsed in his desk chair and spent an hour saying, "What about this? What about that?" At the end of the hour, his rug had reappeared and his desktop had nothing but the box containing a leather briefcase he received for graduation. Two enormous bags of assorted trash had been hauled out to the alley. It was nothing short of a miracle.
Revived by having two bedrooms that looked like persons lived in them, rather than the more unruly faction of the Russian Army, I went back downstairs to attack this recipe. Once I looked at it, I was relieved to learn that the chicken breasts were coated with mayonnaise mixed with gelatin, not jellied chicken broth, and that the recipe could actually be completed and eaten for that night's dinner, not the following night's.
This is a dish that could well be served at a summer dinner party. The cook is supposed to decorate the chicken with all manner of bits, artfully placed to look like flowers, etc. I sliced rounds of a leak and plunked them in a row on top of the coated chicken breast and let that be the end of it. One of these days, I'm going to have to buckle down and apply myself to food decoration. Yeah.
Starting with chilled chicken breasts, I was able to finish this in less than an hour, stick it in the refrigerator to chill some more, and eat it in about an hour and a half. You make the mayonnaise in the blender, add gelatin, and spread it on the chicken. Decorate with sliced olives, leaks, truffles, etc, and voila. It's probably the last of the hot weather dishes for this year.
Cold Chicken Breasts
3 whole chicken breasts, halved
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
freshly ground pepper
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup heavy cream
ripe olives or truffles
Green leek leaves
4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
one red onion, sliced and separated into rings
1/3 cup French dressing
1. Day before, place the chicken breasts in a large skillet with the carrot, celery, one teaspoon salt, the peppercorns, bay leaf, parsley onion and thyme. Add water to three-quarters cover the breasts.
2. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer very gently ten to fifteen minutes, or until chicken is tender. Chill overnight, still in the broth.
3. Next day, remove skin and bones from breasts, but keep meat in whole pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Place the egg yolks, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and salt and cayenne to taste in an electric blender with one quarter cup of olive oil. Blend at high speed, gradually adding remaining olive oil and the vegetable oil in a continuous stream.
5. Soak the gelatin in one-quarter cup water and dissolve while stirring over gentle heat. Add gelatin to mayonnaise in blender and continue blending while adding enough cream to give a spreading consistency.
6. With a spatula or spoon, coat chicken pieces with mayonnaise and decorate immediately with olives or truffles, pimentos and leek greens. Chill.
7. Combine the tomatoes and onion rings. Pour the dressing over and chill.
8. To serve, place tomato mixture on a platter and top with chicken breasts. Garnish with watercress.
Makes 6 servings.