The delicious presence of spinach under the skin keeps chicken breasts juicy
1 pound fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
4 boneless chicken breast halves, skin on (about 6 ounces each)
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup Cognac
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
fresh tarragon leaves for garnish
coarse salt for sprinkling the chicken (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Cut off the root ends of the spinach leaves, about 2 inches up from the root. Discard roots. Wash the spinach leaves in several changes of water. Without drying the leaves, place them in a large pot over high heat. Cook them for about 3 minutes (they should be soft, but still bright green). Place wilted spinach in a colander and immediately refresh with cold water. When spinach is cool, squeeze out the water with your hands. Place dried spinach in a bowl, and season very well with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
3. Rub the chicken breasts all over with the smashed garlic clove, then discard garlic. Season the breasts well with salt and pepper, on both sides and under the skin. Sprinkle breasts on both sides and under the skin with most of the Cognac. Divide the spinach mixture into four parts, and stuff each breast under the skin with a quarter of the spinach. (Smooth the spinach out so that it's distributed evenly over each breast.) Smear a teaspoon of butter on the skin of each breast.
4. Place the breasts in a roasting pan, and place pan in the oven. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove breasts, and place under a hot broiler. The breasts are done when the skin has turned golden, and the white meat is just a trace rosy-pink, about 5 minutes more.
5. Place the breasts on dinner plates. Sprinkle each one with a few drops of Cognac. Top each one with a knob of butter (about a teaspoon per breast), and garnish the butter with fresh tarragon leaves. Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired, and serve immediately.
Quick-cooking chicken breasts in a hot oven—then passing them under a broiler—is another way to keep them juicy. In this recipe, the delicious presence of spinach under the skin makes them juicier still. Serves 4 Recommended wine: Chardonnay