You can’t keep a foodie out of the kitchen, even while on a cruise along the coast of France, Spain and Portugal. Who could resist participating in a cooking class, creating five classic French recipes that can be served at a simple French dinner party in your own home.
After sailing out of the port of Bordeaux, France, my husband and I joined 16 other participants in the Culinary Arts Kitchen on the Seven Seas Explorer for a fun afternoon of cooking. We were greeted by Chef Kathryn Kelly and Chef Instructor Kellie and told to head to a cooking station and put on our aprons. Glasses of wine were poured and the fun began.
The ship’s state of the art kitchen is impressive with floor to ceiling windows looking out to the ocean, quartz countertops, and lots of stainless steel. The room has eighteen individual cooking stations built in three long curved rows. Each station has an induction cooktop, stainless steel sink, wooden knife block and pullout drawer full of necessary utensils. I’ve attended many cooking classes over the years, even given by Michelin starred chefs from France, and this wonderful kitchen is a real dream. Cutting boards and knifes were carefully laid out along with prepped ingredients just waiting for us to start cooking.
Before we started each course, we all gathered around Chef Kelly and her instructor to listen and watch how each dish should be prepared before we headed back to our own stations to cook the dish ourselves. As we were cooking, both chefs circulated among us, giving advice and making sure that we were doing everything properly. Their assistants made sure empty bowls were quickly carried away and our assembled dishes were taken to the ovens to bake. Wine glasses were refilled as we plated and then tasted our finished dishes before we started the next course.
The culinary classes are an hour and a half to two hours long and the time flew by. It was great fun, we learned some new cooking tips and were given the recipes so that we could prepare this simple French dinner in our own home for friends. I thought you might enjoy having one of Chef Kelly’s recipes…it is her Chicken Fines Herbes.
Fines herbes, an equal mixture of tarragon, chervil, parsley and chives, is a classic combination used in French cooking to enhance chicken, fish, veal, salads and egg dishes. Because they lose their flavor rather quickly, they should be added to a recipe like this at the last minute or used as a garnish for sauces, soups, sautés and seafood dishes.
Chicken Fines Herbes
Serves 6, adjust the recipe accordingly.
Preheat the over to 450 degrees.
- 6 boneless chicken breast, skin on, room temperature
- 6 Tbsp. clarified butter*
- 1/4 c. minced shallots
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 1/2 c. veal demi-glace
- 1/4 c. minced fines herbes (tarragon, chervil, parsley and chives)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pat the chicken dry with paper towel. In a large sauté pan over high heat, warm 4 Tbsp. of the butter until searing hot. Add the chicken and sear, turning once, until both sides are golden brown. Transfer to the oven and cook to an internal temperature of 162 degrees. Remove from the oven and reserve warm.
In the same sauté pan over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter and sweat the shallots until soft, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan, allowing the alcohol to evaporate and the sauce to reduce to a syrupy consistency.
Decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the cream and warm through. Then add the demi-glace and warm through, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent simmering. Stir in half of the fines herbes. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed.
Slice each chicken breast on the diagonal into 3 pieces and layer, shingle style, on a serving plate. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the remaining fines herbes.
My tips for preparing this recipe:
- Flatten the breast on the boned side, if necessary, so that it is an even thickness.
- Thoroughly dry the room temperature chicken breasts on both sides with paper towels then season with the salt and pepper.
- The recipe calls for clarified butter*. You can buy clarified butter or ghee in some markets, if not, you can make it yourself. It is the same as making drawn butter. Place a stick of butter in microwaveable dish and cover with plastic wrap. Cook until the butter melts and the white milk solids rise to the top and are present at the bottom, about 1 minute. Skim off the milk solids with a spoon and carefully pour the clarified liquid into a measuring cup or bowl, being careful not to mix the bottom milky solids into the clarified butter.
- Once the chicken is in the pan, don’t try to turn the chicken for a full four or five minutes so that the skin gets golden brown.
- Before putting the chicken in the oven to finish cooking, check with a meat thermometer. Depending on the thickness of the breasts, the chicken may not need any addition time to cook, mine reached the proper temperature just from sautéing.
I hope you will enjoy the Chicken Fines Herbes recipe as much as our class did. We enjoyed the dish so much that we have prepared the chicken and herb sauce at home. I agree with Chef Kelly when she wrote “When I think of elegant, I think of French…however, when I think of simple, I usually do NOT think of French.” With this recipe, she managed to do both, creating a simple dish that will impress your guests. Thank you, Chef!