Admittedly, I’ve become cranky in my old age. On my last few vacations, I’ve found nothing to be more annoying and unpleasant than being in the same place at the same time as a large group of high school students on an international tour. I know this is mean and scrooge-y, especially since my first European adventures were on exactly that kind of trip- I visited the Normandy region on my second hop across the pond with my AP European History class. The coastline is absolutely breathtaking and, as I’m sure you know, Omaha Beach carries the distinction of being the site of the largest military landing in history, which occurred on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Despite the overwhelming sadness of being at the Normandy American Cemetery, there was also a sense of overwhelming calm and a gravity that my seventeen year-old self couldn’t fully grasp.
Photo courtesy of Tomato
We only spend a few short hours touring the beaches, bunkers and monuments and I didn’t get a chance to sit back and appreciate the town itself-or the food. I’d love to go back and experience the sights, sounds and tastes with my thirty-one year old perspective. Seafood in Normandy is abundant; Normandy being the chief oyster-cultivating, scallop-exporting, and mussel-raising region in France. Another fun fact I discovered, thanks to Tomato, is that Normandy is known for its cider (and not so much for wine), and the popular apple brandy, Calvados. Since we’re still sort of in apple season here in Chicago, this was the angle I went for with dinner.
Chicken Normandy is a very simple dish that takes inspiration from the flavors of the region, most notable, apples. Typical of French cuisine, the accompanying sauce is very rich, with lots of butter and cream. My version omits most of that, but still manages a very rich, flavorful sauce. Served with haricot verts, my dinner guest, Apple Crisp, gave it a thumbs up.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or thighs
- Flour for dredging
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 TB butter
- 1 large onion, chopped into thin wedges
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/3 cup Calvados or apple brandy
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 2 cooking apples, cored and sliced into wedges, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- Haricot verts, or any green beans, as an accompaniment
- Melt 1 TB butter in a large, high edged sauté pan. Dredge the chicken in flour and place the pieces in the pan. Fry until golden and fully cooked, about 3-5 minutes on medium to medium-high heat on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Melt the remaining 1 TB. Add the onions and increase the heat to medium-high. Spread the onion slices out in an even layer to cover the pan. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until they just being to brown, about 5-8 minutes.
- Remove the pan from heat; pour in broth, cider and Calvados. Return pan to heat. Boil, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the pan. Add the apples and thyme; season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture boil until the liquid is reduced to about ¼-1/2 cup, or to whatever consistency you fancy, turning the apples occasionally.
- When the sauce is ready, add the chicken back to the pan to bring to temperature and eat!