Tonight we had simple but extraordinarily delicious dinner: Dijon chicken with new red potatoes (from our garden!). I went back through the steps that created the flavor for the meal. Between using a concentrated broth made from chicken bones & vegetable peelings, caramelizing onions, cooking the chicken legs in a cast-iron skilled on high heat to get a Maillard reaction, using strong French mustard, and then reducing the cooking liquid to a thick sauce, I created a dish with out-of-this-world flavor. Peter Kaminsky, author of Culinary Intelligence, would note that I had created maximum flavor per calorie (FPC).
Maximizing FPC is like taking the flavor of the meal and then squaring it. Some things that maximize FPC include grilling, creating a deep brown crust on meats, reducing & concentrating sauces, caramelizing, and using high-FPC ingredients such as Parmesan cheese.
Here's an example of two different ways to cook green beans:
1) boil them until they're cooked, then shake on some table salt (ugh boring)
2) blister them on high heat with olive oil, then add a dash of lemon juice and sea salt (amazing)
Or a roast:
1) Lightly brown a roast, throw in the oven, and cook till overdone, dry, and flavorless
2) Salt & pepper a roast, then deeply brown on all sides in oil. Cook on a wire rack in a very low oven (like 200 F or less) for several hours until the middle is rare/medium rare. You'll have a tender roast that's bursting with flavor.
Maximing FPC isn't necessarily difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. You just need to know what to do. For that, Kaminsky's book is a good primer.
Here's the recipe for Dijon chicken, adapted from a French recipe using rabbit.
~ 3-4 lbs chicken pieces, preferably with skin on
2 onions, chopped
2 cups white wine
a few cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (if you can, buy the strongest French imported mustard you can find. It should read "moutarde de Dijon forte")
salt & pepper
Mustard cream sauce:
2/3 c cream or half & half
1/4 c Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper the chicken. Brown in a cast iron skillet until deep golden on all sides. Set aside. Sautee the onions and some butter in the same pan until golden. Add the chicken, salt & pepper, mustard, white wine, and a few cups of broth. Stir to scape up browned bits. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes until the chicken is very tender.
Remove the chicken and boil the cooking liquid on high until it makes a thick, concentrated sauce.
While you're cooking the chicken, make the mustard cream sauce by putting all 3 ingredients into a saucepan and boiling until reduced by about half. Salt & pepper to taste.
Serve the chicken with the 2 accompanying sauces over potatoes or rice.