Despite no longer being in school, I find the back-to-school period invigorates me to tackle projects around the house in a way that the New Year never does. This year one of those has been organizing my rather daunting recipe collection. In the process, I came across a recipe I clipped from our local newspaper years ago: almond-crusted chicken with Balsamic-poached pear and Brie cream sauce. It's too decadent and labour-intensive for an everyday meal, but I thought it would be the perfect dish for a birthday dinner B and I hosted for my Dad and the rest of my family. My Dad has been so good to me - like helping with my reclaimed wood headboard DIY project that I can't wait to reveal - and I wanted to show him some appreciation. Look out for an upcoming post about the gourmet carrot cake we had for dessert.
To prepare pears (can be made a day ahead):
Peel, slice in half lengthwise and core four ripe Bosc pears. Heat 1 cup balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized saucepan to simmering, then add pears and poach for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, slice pears, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Reheat just before using.
Tip: My pears were not completely immersed during poaching, so I turned them once. I kept the leftover vinegar for use in salad dressings.
To prepare chicken:
Pulse 1 1/2 cups almonds in a blender until slightly coarser than breadcrumbs. Pat 6 chicken breasts dry, then roll in almonds. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until fully cooked.
To prepare sauce:
Melt 6T butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once starting to froth, whisk in 6T flour and continue to whisk until a light-brown roux is formed. Whisking, add 1 cup white wine, 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and 1/2 cup table cream. Simmer until thickened to sauce consistency. Remove from heat and stir in 6T Brie (or other cheese). Season to taste with pepper.
Tip: Clarified butter is used in a traditional roux.
Tip: Before adding the cheese, I separated the sauce into two batches and added Brie to one and blue cheese to the other so people could choose.
Spoon sauce over chicken breasts and top with poached pear slices. Serve with mushroom risotto finished with a splash of lemon juice, and a green salad with a balsamic dressing made with the leftover poaching liquid.
Recipe source: Ottawa Citizen (with some minor adaptations)