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September 24th, 2009:

The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: Now We’re Talking

chicken stuffed with savory duxelles

After a trauma like Tuesday’s biscuit fiesta nonsense, it’s important to get back in the kitchen right away and make something really worth making. Hence tonight’s dinner, chicken stuffed with savory duxelles, from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics. This is more like it.

Let me say again: I love Martha Stewart. I admire her. I’m not in the same league as she is and probably never will be, but as a cook she exemplifies a lot of what I really value in cooking. Fresh, high-quality ingredients, the best techniques, and an unwillingness to settle for anything but the right outcome. Oh, sure, there are lots of fussy recipes in her book, but there are also lots of these simple, delicious dishes.

Despite the French in the title, chicken stuffed with savory duxelles is pretty straightforward. Because the filling is put together quickly, I did all my chopping first: finely chopped parsley, minced garlic and shallot, finely chopped mushrooms. I heated some olive oil in a pan and sauteed the garlic and shallot for about a minute (until they became fragrant), then added the mushrooms and let them cook for a few minutes until they started to release their juices. At this point I sprinkled on a bit of salt and pepper and added a bit of white wine, then let it cook until the liquid was evaporated. Total cooking time: about 15 minutes, most of it hands-off.

While the mushrooms were cooking, I preheated the oven and rubbed a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet, then laid out two chicken breast halves and loosened the skin. When the mushroom mixture was cooked I stirred in some minced parsley, then stuffed the mixture under the skin of the chicken breasts, using toothpicks to secure the skin so that it covered the breast and the filling as fully as possible (rather than sliding off). I added some halved Brussels sprouts to the baking sheet, drizzled some olive oil over the whole thing, and put it in the oven. It baked for 35 minutes, during which time I cleaned up the kitchen and poured myself a glass of wine.

When the kitchen timer went off I pulled the baking sheet from the oven. Beautiful: browned, roasted sprouts, crispy chicken skin, and moist and flavorful chicken. I wish I could convey the smell over the Web. I pulled out the toothpicks, slid chicken and Brussels sprouts onto plates, and dinner was served.

Verdict: Success. I will make this again. This is what cooking should be: Simple, elegant and delicious.