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Magical Mystery Sauce

You know how sometimes 1+1 = 4? Yes? Sometimes the combination of two recipes is way better than the original individual ones. That’s when a recipe is a keeper.

I was planning to invite family friends over for Easter. Normally we spend Easter together in their garden, hiding Easter gifts for each other, with the kiddos running around and a cookout if the weather permits. Well, most people weren’t in town, mostly because they were on vacation in Asia, so we were trying to come up with an alternate plan. I was hoping to invite the remaining contingent over for Easter Sunday or Monday, but if I’m preparing new to me recipes then I really want to try them out. My plan was to make something with chicken so I was browsing through Epicurious, looking for recipes that sounded interesting.

I found a very interesting recipe for chicken with radicchio and fennel mustard butter. Hmm. I didn’t have any radicchio, but I had sweet potatoes. Now, I am on a mission to make good sweet potato fries. I’ve tried various versions, and I haven’t been happy with any of them. Saint Ex in DC used to make these awesome sweet potato fries – my goal was to reach that standard. Btw, Saint Ex ended up with a new cook, so the sweet potato fries are permanently off the table. Boo.

I could share my sweet potato fries adventures with you but this post is about chicken. (Bock bock bock bogoooooock – just for you, V!). Let’s return to the chicken with fennel mustard butter. The fennel mustard butter sounded interesting. I have a French mustard with herbs, which, thanks to the herbs is green. That, plus butter and fennel made a for a really pretty, very green, and very tasty fennel mustard butter.

On to the chicken part of the menu. Chicken marinated in olive oil and lemon juice. But I was feeling more adventurous. And then I remembered this magic sauce recipe from 101 cookbooks. I’d made this magic sauce before, and used it in a version of aglio e oglio, or with buffalo burgers. I brushed it both on the burgers and on the toasted rolls. De-licious.

magic sauce in the making – note the fennel mustard butter in the background

Now, I could make the Italianesque version of the magic sauce as in the recipe. Or I could tinker with it. Guess which option I chose. Yeah. I decided to make an Indianized version, and substitute ingredients. Here’s my magic sauce a la India:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp roasted fennel, ground into a powder
1 1/2 tsp roasted cumin, ground into a powder
2 large garlic cloves, smashed into a paste
1 bay leaf, well crumbled
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I ground the herbs in a mortar but you can just chop them)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

lamb knuckles in a Römertopf (clay pot)

I used the entire sauce, plus some extra olive oil, lemon juice and salt and marinated the chicken breasts in the sauce in a ziploc and everything was good. And then the plans were turned upside down. The menu was revised to lamb knuckles, marinated provencal style with lots of caramelized red onions, steamed potatoes and salad with spring herbs fresh from our friends’ garden. Oh and some of that fennel mustard butter. This isn’t the best picture, but you get the idea.

The marinated chicken had to stay in the fridge an extra day. This is the first time I marinated chicken more than 24 hours. I wasn’t sure if it would be ok, but some googling showed that it should be ok. Since there was acid in the dressing, I was hoping that the chicken wouldn’t be tough. But au contraire. The extra marinade time had made the chicken delicious. I used a cast iron pan and fried the chicken in butter, 4 minutes on each side, letting them brown nicely, and then I finished it in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, for 10 minutes. The marinade was added to the pan and made for awesome pan drippings. I ate some of the remaining drippings with bread – so good.

I don’t think I can convey in words how juicy and tasty the chicken was. Chicken breasts tend to dry out, but this, this was great. The chicken breasts weren’t to thin so they wouldn’t have dried out quickly, but the marinade made the dish. It outshone the sweet potato fries by leaps and bounds. Since that dish was so awesome, I remade it for Mom. First I thought I’d make a quick salsa and then some beans, probably beans almondine. Easy peasy, right? But then I made that pomegranate black bean feta mandarin and mint salad. This time I once again marinated the chicken for two days – why mess with a good thing. I urge you to go out and make your own. Really. You won’t regret it.

As you might have guessed, the post title is inspired by the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour

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