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Armed with a 1954 Sabatier high-carbon French chef’s knife, a few pairs of tongs, and a ton of food, I set off to cook a benefit recently.

The dinner was broken up into cocktail hour, followed by a 5 course meal. After the salad course, seeing the looks on the guests’ faces, we discussed a 7th-inning stretch, and they happily jumped at the idea.

Truthfully, they didn’t jump at the idea at all; rather they slowly made their way to the living room for an animated conversation about everything from food & wine to one guest’s tours in Iraq, the lack of cursive handwriting in public schools, et al.

After everyone had a chance to settle in a bit, we made it back to the table for the entrée, which was and still is, a mere two days later, one of my favorite dishes; formidably seared chicken a la sauce of your choice.

I moved some butane burners out to the yard to sear the chicken, for two very important reasons. One, when searing any meats at high heat, there will be grease splatter. More splatter equals more cleanup for Paul, and that just won’t do.

And two, if I had performed this indoors, it would have smoked out the entire house. Oft convinced that I won’t ‘do it again’, I am constantly smoking out my own house, but being in tiger country, i.e. someone else’s abode, I opted to go the shrewder route.

Having recently read Ma Gastronomie, by Fernand Point, the consummate French Chef who passed in the 50’s as the reigning chef supreme in the culinary homeland, I was reaffirmed in my searing technique.

Chef Point, in his rendition of classical cuisine, often remarked on the necessity of two things when searing meats. The first is a hot pan, and the second is the half butter and half oil combination I have written here on occasion. The oil raises the flashpoint of the butter, and the butter adds flavor. Remember this tip, and you will be set for life.
While the first step of searing chicken is the same regardless of the sauce, the latter is completely the choice of the cook. I prepared today’s piece as Mediterranean Chicken, with oil-cured black olives, fresh baby heirloom tomatoes, fennel, lemon, fresh herbs, EV olive oil, butter, butter, and butter.

  1. Debone the chicken to yield 2 perfectly boneless halves. Use the chicken bones to make your chicken stock
  2. Salt and pepper the chicken and set aside
  3. Place a pan on an outdoor burner, unless you are fortunate enough to have a killer exhaust system in your kitchen
  4. When the pan is smoking hot, add some olive oil and butter. The butter will burn fairly quickly so act fast, being careful not to splash the hot fats. Also, ensure that you have enough fat in the pan so the skin will effectively fry and crisp up
  5. When the chicken is nice and browned, and the skin is crispy, turn over. As you are doing this, add the rest of the ingredients, with lemons face-down in the fat, and after 30 seconds, place the chicken halves on top of the other ingredients (except for the tomatoes)
  6. Add the chicken stock, and top with some butter pats
  7. Place in a 200C (400F) oven for approximately 12 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken is 68-71C (155-160F)
  8. ***Very Important Note – chicken must be cooked to 74C (165F), but if you pull it off at 71C (160F), the carryover cooking will take it up to the appropriate temperature, so you’ll be fine.

If you’re into Mediterranean cuisine, check out our round-up of the most popular Mediterranean foods.

Paul Suplee

Paul G. Suplee CEC, PC III is a private chef, college professor, writer, photographer & blogger who breathes food. Active in the professional food service industry since 1983, he has worked in a number of locations across the United States. Paul now teaches adult students near Ocean City, Maryland after an interesting four-year career as a high school teacher. No disrespect to the food stylist world or that of the food writer, but what you see and read from him, love it or hate it, is what you will get at his table. No blowtorches, no crisco-ice cream and no molasses in place of natural glazing, either in photo or word.

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