Chicken Oscar – elegant chicken topped with crab, asparagus and hollandaise can be the star of your Oscar Party.
by Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
Chicken Oscar. What a clever name, and the elegance certainly befits a Hollywood star-studded gala event.
But in fact, this chicken dish has evolved out of a specialty dish made for Oscar II, the King of Sweden, using veal. That dish, Veal Oscar, is traditionally made with veal scaloppine (thinly pounded veal) covered with crab or crayfish and Bearnaise sauce (which is a derivative sauce of Hollandaise flavored with tarragon instead of lemon.) Traditionally, Veal Oscar has been served with asparagus as well, which we also do here.
Chicken is much easier to pound thin if you put it inside a large plastic bag. It also keeps the splatter of raw chicken contained.
White asparagus is the same kind as green asparagus, but when it grows, gardeners heap the soil in mounds around it so that it grows underneath the soil, and since it doesn’t get sunlight for chlorophyll, it has a striking white color, but still has the same delicious flavor.
You can use lump crabmeat in this, but I just bought some snow crab clusters from my fish monger. What I do to get these ready is to place the crab on a baking sheet, spray lightly with cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375F. just until it is heated and the shells crisp (since all that is precooked). Baking the shells rather than steaming them or boiling makes them quite a bit easier to crack, in my opinion. I am sure we have all had our headaches with crab shells so waterlogged and flexible they were like plastic drinking straws more than cartilage.
Always use lemon juice fresh squeezed. Never ever be tempted to use lemon juice in a bottle or plastic squeeze fruit. It just isn’t worth it.
A note about my preferred eggs as seen in the photo.
Notice the dark rich color of my egg yolks. This is because I purchase pastured organic eggs, which are from free-range, happy, bug eating chickens. The yolks from these birds contain a higher amount of lutein, which is also found in dark leafy greens, such as kale. This gives it that deep color. But these yolks also contain a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids as well.
So obviously, more healthy, and you can tell the difference in flavor too. So try to look into getting pastured organic eggs, especially if you can purchase those from a local farmer. It’s not just a fad thing. The farmer needs your business, because if large corporations take care of it, you won’t be getting this type egg.
Note that when you cook the chicken, you don’t really need that much oil- just enough to barely cover the bottom of the pan. I used a large skillet, so 1/4 cup was necessary, but not all of it was absorbed by the chicken.
The chicken should become a nice golden brown, with an internal temp of 165F when it is done. This should take about 12-15 minutes. If your chicken darkens sooner, turn that flame down! It should be moderate to moderate-low.
I don’t use an ordinary double boiler. Instead, I use a stainless bowl which will nest over a small saucepan. I add water to the saucepan and get that simmering, making sure the water level is not so high as to touch the bottom of the pan. Since I use a stainless bowl, it is easier for me to whisk together the initial ingredients, than place the bowl on the heat when it is time.
Here you can see the stainless bowl being used on the heat as the top of a double boiler, and as the mixture is whisked, chunks of butter are added one at a time. I find that using cold butter keeps the sauce from trying to break as much. This can be a temperamental sauce (it especially does not like to wait to be served so do NOT make it ahead) but really, this recipe does well for me and I have had more luck with the cold butter than other recipes which use melted butter.
Here you can see the sauce thickening up as the last of the butter is added. Note how it becomes lighter in color. It should trail a little bit from the whisk as you lift it. Should the sauce try to break at this point, keep a cup of boiling water handy. If you splash a few drops in and keep whisking, it generally pulls back together. You might even be so unlucky as to have to add drops of water several times, but it should pull through. But don’t worry. I know you will do just fine.
To build the chicken, place the cooked chicken on the plate and top with the crab meat.
Then top the crab with asparagus. You can criss-cross them like so, or just lay them across, whichever you prefer. And since I did cook more than the 6 spears required for the recipe, I used the extra sauce to top more asparagus as a side, since we enjoy lots of vegetables, but you can do whichever way you prefer.
This recipe is in fact French. In fact, I even tried to see if it was one of the recipes Wolfgang Puck ever made for one of his infamous Oscar dinners, but without success. Maybe someone out there knows?
This is very elegant, but even so, it is simple. Hollandaise can see like a frightening thing to make, but I really have had great success preparing it provided I use the butter cold, in chunks, instead of melted as the original recipe calls for. It is a simple matter of a lot of whisking, not so very different from making gravy really. I use a stainless bowl set over a pan of simmering water as my double boiler, just making sure the water is not so high as to touch the bottom of the bowl. Other than that, this recipe is really easy, and one which will be perfect for any dinner party, Oscar night or not.
I find the asparagus perfect for early spring, although I daresay it is now available year-round. I do hope you enjoy, and it gets votes for “Best Recipe” at your dinner get together or party.
- 12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast halves
- 1/2 cup flour
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup crabmeat (picked free of shell and debris)
- 6 white asparagus spears (cooked)
- Hollandaise sauce (recipe follows_
- Trim chicken and place in a gallon ziplock bag. Zip shut and pound thin with a flat mallet or rolling pin (using the bag keeps raw chicken blood from spattering everywhere).
- Season chicken to taste with salt and pepper then dredge in flour and shake off excess.
- Heat oil in a large skillet and cook chicken until golden brown on both sides and interior temperature is 165ºF., about 12-15 minutes. Drain on paper toweling.
- While chicken cooks, cook asparagus 4-5 minutes in boiling salted water then drain. Heat crab and keep warm.
- Prepare hollandaise using recipe below and keep warm.
- Top cooked chicken with crab, asparagus and Hollandaise sauce.
- Garnish with paprika and parsley if desired. Use any additional Hollandaise sauce at once on other vegetables.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 12 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter (cut into 1 tablespoon pieces)
- Few drops of Louisiana hot pepper sauce
- Whisk egg yolks, lemon juice and Dijon mustard together in the top of a double boiler or stainless bowl used as a double boiler top, keeping the water simmering but not touching the upper pot or bowl.
- Add the butter pieces, one tablespoon at a time, whisking until incorporated before adding another.
- When sauce becomes thickened, quickly whisk in the cayenne pepper sauce and serve at once.
- Hint: if sauce tries to break, add boiling water a few drops at a time, whisking constantly to bring it back together. Do NOT prepare sauce until just before serving as it does not hold.
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