Do you ever have the occasion to stare at a hunk of meat and wonder what it wants to be for dinner? It was a package of boneless-skinless chicken breasts that held my gaze. In general, I have a plan, but sometimes I am just not in the mood for the predictable. When that happens, I usually reach forward for something new, searching Google or fave foodie sites for inspiration. I didn’t have a lot of time to pull something unfamiliar together, so instead I reached back and looked through some recipes from years and years ago to revamp.
Why do we keep recipes we don’t use?
Creamy Garlic-Dijon Chicken is one such recipe, made only once or twice without much fanfare. This recipe rather bugged me; I knew it should be better than it was. We love the primary flavors of toasted garlic and Dijon in this dish, but it just didn’t WOW any of us when we had it before, so it sat in the file. That’s the way it is with food around here, if no one raves about it, it has quickly forgotten to sit in the archives, unloved. I was determined to make it a memorable dish, yet keep it easy enough for a weeknight.
Do you ever tackle a recipe, knowing it should taste better than it does, determined to bring out its potential?
It can be a single ingredient or slight method change that takes a meal from good to great. With Thai Chili Sesame Chicken Wings, it was the squeeze of lime that did it, for Parmesan & Herb Zucchini Sticks, it was Panko bread crumbs that took it over the top … part of the fun of cooking is that serendipitous moment of discovery. As it turned out, this one needed a complete overhaul to move up from the archive abyss to recipe revelry.
As I mentioned, we love garlic, but if you don’t treat it right, it can have a bitter, strong bite to it. (BTW, it’s okay if you find a little green sprout coming out of the top of your clove, just remove that part and use the rest.) Be gentle with it in this recipe, keep a close eye when toasting and remove it from the pan when it is a light tan color—more like a cute, sun-kissed nose rather than a tropical vacation.
Dijon mustard is straightforward and mild, but it needs a little help to stand up to the garlic. That is where the stone ground course mustard comes in, though it is trickier to sort out, choose one with a clean mustard taste, not too vinegary. In my opinion, it can make or break this dish. Of course, anything that tastes good to you by itself will be fine. It doesn’t take much, but it brings an important balance and texture to the sauce.
Cream, half-&-half, whole milk, sour cream … you choose. I had half-&-half on-hand, but any of these will work, adjusted for thickness (the thicker it is, less is needed). In the photo you can see we served it with Spaghetti Squash with Tomato, Basil, & Feta, except this time used goat cheese instead of feta—oh, so good together! Tender chicken finished with a tangy cream sauce studded with toasted garlic is a simple, weeknight meal we will now make repeatedly.
Note: This recipe is easy to make gluten-free, just replace the flour with sweet rice flour and make sure the mustard and chicken stock is GF, you are set!
- 4 whole chicken breast halves -- boneless and skinless
- sea salt
- black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 10 large cloves garlic -- minced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup sweet onion -- minced
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon stone ground coarse mustard
- ½ cup half and half
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley -- minced
- Arrange chicken breasts on a platter or rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, and dust lightly with flour.
- To toast the garlic, heat the olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium-low heat. Once the oil is warm, add the garlic; cook over medium-low heat until light-golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and reserve on a plate, leave remaining oil in skillet.
- In the same skillet with the remaining oil from toasting the garlic, cook chicken over medium heat, turning once, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from skillet and reserve on a platter.
- For the sauce, heat butter in the same skillet over medium-low heat until melted, then add the onions. Cook onions until soft, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly until flour is incorporated into the butter, about 30 seconds. While stirring, gradually add chicken stock and continue cooking until sauce will begin to thicken, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in mustards, toasted garlic, and half & half into the sauce, stir to incorporate. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add chicken and accumulated juices from the platter into the sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes
- Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.