pan roasted chicken with orange cognac sauce

pan roasted chicken with orange cognac sauce

...pan roasted chicken with orange cognac sauce...

When I was young, I would only cook with two types of alcohol: wine and beer. And when I say “young”, I’m saying when I was eight. One of the alcoholic beverages, beer, was because I was inspired after watching an interview with Mathew McConaughey where he described, in his sultry southern drawl, how he makes beer butt chicken. The other, wine, is because I’m Taiwanese and Taiwanese people like to use rice wine. Other than that, alcohol has been mostly off limits for me because I was too young to partake in any of it and my parents only drank beer and wine. Could you imagine the conversation between my eight year old self and my parents for some hard liquor to cook with.

In case you needed a visual clue to what I looked like at 8.

Me: Dad, can you buy cognac for me?

Dad: What?

Me: Yeah, cognac. You know, Hennesey, Courvoisier, or Remy Martin?

Mom: What?

Me: Yeah, if not cognac you can just get Brandy. It doesn’t have to be the French stuff or the fancy stuff. I just need VS. XO is too fancy.

Mom: Why?

Me: Because I saw the Frugal Gourmet cook with it.

Dad: You watch too much tv.

I’m glad I didn’t have the conversation, because I just realized that I would have been making my dad buy alcohol for a minor. So, instead of having to make my Dad commit a felony, I just waited until I was of legal age to purchase the stuff.

This was the first dish I ever made with cognac. It’s based on a recipe I saw in a Fine Cooking magazine three years ago. It was delicious and simple but made me feel like an advanced cook. Actually, anything utilizing French ingredients or techniques make me feel fancy, as is evident in my salmon recipe. The thing that really makes the dish is the combination of the booze with the butter. The nuttiness of the butter marries amazingly well with the oakey apple flavor you get from a French brandy. I guess that’s why it’s such a common pairing and so popular in cooking.

The first time I did this, I flamed the sauce. I mainly did it because I was always intrigued with fire as a young child [first sign of a crazy person?] and felt like if I did it as an adult, then it is normal. But there is no reason for it. The heat from the stove will cook out the alcohol, the flame is just for show. But, if you feel like doing it and are in a safe area with fire extinguisher in hand, be all cirque du soleil with it.

This dish is super easy one and doesn’t really require special knowledge or tools. The only thing that requires some planning is the amount of time you need to brine the chicken. Do not skip this step! It’s white meat. Brining makes it tender, yummy, and juicy. Another post is planned to go deeper into brining, and an excuse for me to make some pork chops.

The original recipe called for fennel. I didn’t feel like slicing a whole fennel bulb so I used tarragon instead. It has a slightly anise flavor like fennel but doesn’t require lots of prep or slicing. Just throw it in, let the heat from the sauce do its work and then remove the stalks. Easy peasy.



1½ cup orange juice, pulp free

½ cup water

¼ cup of salt

4 tbs. sugar

half of a medium onion, roughly chopped

2 1 ½ – 2 lb chicken breasts, skin on and whole

2 tbs vegetable oil

¼ cup shallot, minced

1 large orange, supremes (orange segments cut out)

1 tbs butter

2 tbs cognac

2 sprigs of fresh tarragon


mix orange juice, water, salt, sugar and onion in a large non reactive bowl

add chicken to the brine, and let sit, covered, in refrigerator for at least 3 hours

preaheat oven to 375°f

remove chicken breasts from brine and pat dry

heat oil on high heat in an oven safe pan and brown chicken skin side down until crispy, 5 minutes

flip chicken breasts and roast in oven for 10 minutes, or until fully cooked

remove chicken from pan and let rest

return pan to medium high heat and add shallots and stir until browned

turn heat off and add cognac and slowly bring to a simmer (scrape brown bits off pan while doing this)

swirl butter and tarragon until butter is fully melted and tarragon completely wilts

drizzle sauce over chicken breasts

~serves 2~


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