Monday, November 5, 2012

Bistro Chicken with Caramelized Onions

On a recent trip to Costco, I ran into a friend out of the blue, which was awesome because I adore her! But I just knew she would see what was in my cart and think me so strange.

Want to know what it was?

Onions. Ten pounds of them. For two adults and a toddler.

I felt like Matthew Cuthbert dragging home twenty pounds of brown sugar.

Seriously, though, ten pounds of onions for $5 -- I couldn't walk away from that. Because I use onions just about every time I cook something. And they keep really well in our pantry. In fact, we've already used most of them up in about a month's time. Reality check time for me -- we eat a lot of onions.

I particularly love to caramelize them. It takes some time, but it's so simple, and brings out such delightful sweetness. You can caramelize a big batch and freeze them for later use, which will give you a lot of bang for your buck of time invested in making them.

And them you can use them to top all sorts of things, like French Dip Sandwiches, or this Bistro Chicken.

If this dish doesn't appeal to you, I just give up. Everything about it appeals to me. I love the tender chicken, the brick-red, savory sauce, the melty cheese, and the golden, tender, schlumpy caramelized onions.

Mmm Mm!

It is fantastic with garlic mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles. But usually I just serve it with a side of steamed broccoli (or, when feeling fancy, broccolini).

Oh, and it's easy. Weeknight-dinner easy.
You could even assemble it in advance and refrigerate for a day or two before serving it, only in that case I would bake it for about 20 minutes at 350ยบ, or until heated through with bubbly, happy cheese, instead of broiling.

Bistro Chicken
adapted from This Week for Dinner

1 Tbsp. oil
4-6 chicken breasts*
1, 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can French Onion Soup concentrate (Campbell's)
1/2-1 tsp. Italian seasoning (I love the blend from Penzey's)
salt and pepper to taste
Swiss or Provolone cheese
caramelized onions (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken on both sides and add to skillet. Cook about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through. Remove from pan and place in greased, broiler-safe baking pan.
Into the same skillet, add diced tomatoes, French Onion soup, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Bring to a bubble and simmer until reduced and slightly thickened. At this point, I usually remove about two thirds of the sauce mixture and puree it before adding it back to the pan, but this is an optional step. If you don't want to puree, know that the sauce will not be very thick, but still yummy.
Pour sauce over chicken in pan and top with slices of cheese. Place pan under broiler set to high. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbly.

*I find that no one (in my family at least) needs a whole chicken breast, so I generally butterfly them, giving me two thinner pieces of chicken per breast. If you do the same, you will only need 2-3 whole breasts. Cooking time will also be quicker. Good step-by-step instructions here (only cut all the way through and don't bother pounding them out).

Basic Caramelized Onions

In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. oil or butter over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, slice one medium-sized onion. I like my slices to be on the squat side -- a little shorter and fatter than usual -- but you can slice them as thinly and as long as you prefer. However you slice it, make the slices as even as you can.
Add onion to skillet, along with a pinch of salt and a skiffing of pepper. Let onions cook over low heat until they turn golden and soft. This may take an hour or more, but don't turn up the heat or your onions will burn. Stir them around occasionally to make sure things cook evenly.

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