6-40: Peppercorn Chicken Breasts

Here’s one I’ve made in the past–there’s even my Sharpie notations to prove it. I remember making 6-40: Peppercorn Chicken Breasts for my mom, since she’s not a red meat eater and I was making another recipe from this book for everyone else that was heavy on meat. I’ll cover that one eventually, and update this to reflect that. 😉

6-40 Peppercorn Chicken Breasts
My notations claim that it’s easy. It is, when you use the right ingredients. If you don’t, it gets a bit tougher…

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The sticking point for me with this recipe the last time was the peppercorn requirement: they want you to find fancy peppercorns for this that proved difficult back in 2009 for some reason. I suppose I could have just ordered whatever fancy peppercorns I wanted off the Internet (here’s pink, green, and Szechwan), but alas, I did not–then or now. It was dinner time, we were low on supplies, and this was one of the only recipes for which I had mostly all the ingredients.

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Ingredients. Here we go with the swaps–I subbed chicken thighs for breasts and black peppercorns (at least I crushed them myself) for pink/green/Szechwan ones. While you see heavy whipping cream there, I actually used half-and-half because the one we have is lactose free, and my fellow diner does not enjoy the GI effects of heavy cream.

At least I found a use for the bottle of sherry wine I bought thinking I could use it for sherry vinegar in a salad dressing. Later found out that the two are NOT really that interchangeable–sherry wine is a LOT heavier and less tart than sherry vinegar. Live and learn.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Thighs before pounding. Sorry for the meat shots, if you’re not a fan.

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I pounded the hell out of ‘em. While my neighbors probably didn’t appreciate it, it’s good stress relief. 🙂

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Added my illegitimate pepper. I suppose different pepper really would give it different flavors, but I was too damn hungry to care.

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Cooking Mama butter swirling time.

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One of my other mistakes: I added 3 TB of butter when it called for 2. Usually that doesn’t make THAT big of a deal (I find a lot of recipes undershoot the amount of fat you need to sauté/cook with), but you’ll see later why it DID matter this time.

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Browning the sides. It says not to flip them more than once–but I did! Don’t tell the Simply Delicious people. 🙁

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Added the sherry to the remaining butter in the pan & started whisking.

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Instead of heavy cream, I had subbed in lactose-free half-and=half. The problem here was not the lactose free, but the fact that it wasn’t full cream. The sauce started well, but it had a hard time thickening on its own.

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The result of not being thick enough–the sauce kept breaking. I had two options: try to thicken it with cornstarch or flour, or scrap it and start over. I chose to thicken it with flour. The best way to incorporate the flour would have been to make a slurry with the flour mixed in a bit of water or even the broken sauce, but I was in a rush, so I just threw the flour into the hot sauce. DON’T do that–it gets clumpy unless you’re really on your game, and even then it won’t be the same.

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Close-up of the broken sauce before I threw in the flour. This was probably the result of too much butter left in the pan from cooking the chicken and using the half-and-half instead of heavy cream.

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After incorporating about 1 TB of flour and a bit more half-and-half to even it out. Definitely thick, but a bit more glue-like than I would have preferred–a smooth, satiny texture would have been more ideal.

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Final product, served over some steamed jasmine rice and with a side of steamed broccoli. Tasted good, but not as nice of a sauce as it could have been. I don’t remember having that issue the first time, but I probably didn’t have the butter/cream issue that first time. If you end up trying this one out, keep the sauce issue in mind.

Otherwise, it did taste good. Nothing too exciting, but definitely something most people could enjoy.

Grade: B+

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