A luscious dish packed with all the delectables permitted on a low-carb diet: bacon, cream, dry white wine and golden chicken skin. I’ve developed this recipe for Woolworths’s new Flavour Society, on May’s theme of winter food. Along with my friend Nina Timm, I’m one of the bloggers contributing my original recipes to Woolies’ Flavour Society Winter Pinterest board – hop over and have a look!
|Creamy Low-Carb Chicken, Fennel & Bacon, with a Cauliflower and Nutmeg Mash|
Chicken breasts toughen fast in the pan, so it’s important to cook them gently over a very low heat once you’ve added them to the sauce. I always cut the breasts in half crossways – making the thickest end into a slightly smaller piece than the thinner end – because I think whole ones look ungainly and intimidating on a plate.
Another crucial step in this recipe is to a achieve a handsome golden crust on the chicken pieces. The golden stickiness left on the bottom of the pan (that holy grail among flavours) will add gorgous depth to the sauce.
Cauliflower – the new darling of the low-carb world – is a good enough substitute for mashed potatoes (I’m stifling a sob as I type because I sorely miss mash, particularly buttery champ), and is much improved by cream, butter and particularly nutmeg, with which it has a wonderful affinity.
I’ve tried many different ways of preparing cauliflower mash, purée and ‘couscous‘, and concluded that microwaving is the best method, because it keeps the florets nice and dry, and minimises that farty whiff so characteristic of boiled brassicas. If you don’t believe in microwaving, you can steam the florets instead.
|This luscious dish depends for its depth of flavour on the gorgeous golden
residue that forms on the bottom of the pan when you fry the chicken skin.
Creamy Low-Carb Chicken, Fennel & Bacon, with a Cauliflower and Nutmeg Mash
|The breasts should still be raw on the insides after frying.|
Heat the oil over a medium-high flame in a large shallow pan. When it is very hot and just beginning to shimmer, fry the breast pieces, skin-side down, in batches of 8 at a time, for 3-5 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and a beautiful golden-brown. (See Cook’s Notes at the end of this post).
Set the chicken pieces aside, skin-side up, on a plate. The insides of the breasts must still be quite raw.
|The stock and wine will reduce to a rich syrup.|
Cover and gently braise the vegetables for 10-12 minutes, or until the fennel pieces are just tender, the leeks are soft, and the wine reduced by half.
|Sprinkle the crisped bacon bits over the chicken at the end.|
To make the cauliflower mash, cut off the florets – discarding any thick stalks – and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with one tablespoon of water.
Cover and microwave on high for 12-15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very soft and yielding. Alternatively, you can steam the cauliflower over boiling water.
Stir in the butter and nutmeg, season with salt and a pinch of white pepper, and keep hot.
- Take your time frying the chicken breasts so they brown nicely without catching or burning. Don’t prod them or turn them over. The skin may stick to the bottom of the pan at first, but as the fat renders and turns golden, you will find that the pieces can easily be lifted out. The trick here is to keep adjusting the heat under the pan.
- Be careful not to over-cook the breasts, or they will become stiff and dry. To check whether they are done, poke the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part of the biggest piece. If the juices run clear and the bone feels very hot to a finger-touch, they’re ready, and you must remove the pan from the heat.
- This dish can be prepared well in advance. When the chicken pieces are almost cooked through, with just a touch of pinkness in the middle, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside to cool. If you’re going to reheat the dish within two hours, you can leave it on the counter. If it’s a very hot day, or you’d like to serve it the next day, refrigerate the whole pan, covered. To serve, remove the pan from the fridge, let it come up to room temperature for an hour or more, and then reheat it over a very gentle flame until the sauce is bubbling and the chicken is hot to the bone.
Note: I was paid a fee by Woolworths for this recipe.