Sunday Night Dinner: Fricasseed Chicken Breasts with Fresh Herbs and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

When I’m working in an office, as I am until mid-June, I like to cook something substantial on Sunday nights—both to flex my kitchen muscles and to have leftovers for dinner during the week. The only meat we had in the freezer was a package of frozen bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, so I decided to braise them. (Hey, any excuse to use Big Blue, you know?) I had some fresh herbs in the crisper, an open bottle of Chardonnay, sun-dried tomatoes, that great buffalo bacon…say, this was shaping up into an interesting mix.

Once I’d completed my survey of the cupboards, I turned to my cookbook collection for inspiration. I pulled down a few old reliables, and one or two new ones that I’d been meaning to try. In the very second book, Marcella Says…, I found a flag for a recipe I’d noticed earlier: Fricasseed Chicken with Fresh Herbs and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. It called for a cut-up whole chicken, garlic, sage and rosemary, white wine, sun-dried tomatoes, dried chili pepper, and white potatoes. I had nearly all those ingredients—chicken breasts are a fine substitution for chicken parts (I only had to adjust the cooking time), oregano would work instead of sage, dried red pepper flakes would stand in for an actual dried chili, and Yukon Gold potatoes would pinch-hit for russets.

The smell while this was cooking was absolutely phenomenal. The smokiness of the bacon combined with the garlic and herbs…oh, my. The wine breaks down the dried tomatoes and mixes with the starch from the potatoes, creating a luscious, rich, and very flavorful sauce with very little fat. If it weren’t for the fact that it was raw chicken, I would’ve dived in long before it was done.

Weight Watchers readers: one chicken breast (skin removed) and 1/6 of the potatoes equals 9 points. With some steamed broccoli or roasted asparagus, that’s a pretty good dinner.

Fricasseed Chicken Breasts with Fresh Herbs and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Adapted from Marcella Says… : Italian Cooking Wisdom from the Legendary Teacher’s Master Classes, with 120 of Her Irresistible New Recipes
Serves 4-6

6 large chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
1 ½ T. fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 ½ T. fresh rosemary, chopped fine
3 slices thick-cut bacon [I used buffalo bacon], cut into 1-inch pieces, about ½ cup
8 sun-dried tomato halves, cut into ½-inch pieces
Sea salt to taste
½ t. dried red chili flakes
1 cup dry white wine [I used Chardonnay]
6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

Wash the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.

Pour the oil into a 12-inch sauté pan, skillet, or Dutch oven, and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the chicken breasts, skin side down. Cook until browned to a nice deep gold, turn and brown the other side. Transfer the pieces to a bowl.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the garlic to the pan, and as soon as the garlic aroma begins to rise, add the herbs and bacon. Cook the bacon, turning it once or twice, until it is lightly browned but not crisp. Add the sun-dried tomatoes. [If you’re using dry, not oil-packed, as I did, you might think the pan’s going to burn at this point. Have a little faith and turn down the heat a bit and all will be well.] Turn all the ingredients once or twice, then return the chicken breasts to the pan with their accumulated juices. Sprinkle with the salt and chili pepper flakes, and turn the pieces to coat them well.

Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and let it bubble for a few seconds. Use a wooden spoon to scrape those yummy browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook the chicken, turning it from time to time, until it is nearly cooked, about 20 minutes. If during this time, the pan juices become insufficient to keep the chicken from sticking, add up to ¼ cup of water.

When the chicken is done, transfer the pieces to the bowl again.

Put the potatoes in the pan, turning them over to coast them well. Sprinkle them with salt, turn the heat down to medium, and cover the pan. When the potatoes are almost done but not quite tender, return the chicken to the pan with any accumulated juices. Cook, turning the chicken over once or twice, until the potatoes are done. [I’m not sure why, but it took my potatoes a lot longer to cook than I expected—nearly half an hour. Make sure yours really are nearly done before you return the chicken to the pan, otherwise you’ll have overdone chicken, and we all know what a tragedy that can be.]

Serve at once, spooning a little sauce over each chicken breast.