Recipe 21: The Silver Palate’s Chicken Dijonnaise (1982)*

*Slightly modified for COVID-19 shortages of certain foods

I purchased or otherwise obtained all of the most popular cookbooks from each decade of the 20th century when I started this blog. I learned from Taste of Home’s site that The Silver Palate Cookbook was the most popular book from the 1980’s. I had no idea what The Silver Palate was until yesterday. I thought it was a restaurant until I actually read the introduction in the book and realized that The Silver Palate was actually a food store in New York City that closed in 1993 but still has an online store today.

I scanned the recipes and most of them seemed challenging and required a lot of fancy ingredients that I just could not easily obtain. I found this recipe and it seemed simple and did not require too many steps, so I decided to try it.

(I’m not going to lie, I chose this recipe because it is Chicken Dijonnaise and the Dijonnaise part reminded me of the Hellmann’s Dijonnaise commercial that I saw as a kid in the early 1990s…you know the commercial, it is the one that repeats “Di Di Di Dijonnaise” to the “Duke of Earl” song chorus.)

The recipe is as follows:

1 chicken, 2½ to 3 pounds, quartered

1/3 cup mustard (we like half Dijon-style and half coarse Pommery-style mustard)

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/3 cup vermouth or dry white wine

½ cup Creme Fraiche or heavy cream

salt, to taste

  1. Coat the chicken with the mustard and set it in a bowl, covered, to marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  3. Arrange chicken, skin side up, in a flameproof baking dish. Scrape out any mustard remaining in the bowl and spread it evenly over the chicken. Season lightly with pepper and pour the vermouth or wine around the chicken.
  4. Set dish on the center rack of the oven and bake, basting occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is done. You may have to bake the dark meat sections for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Scrape the mustard off of the chicken and back into the baking dish. Transfer chicken pieces to a serving platter, cover, and keep warm.
  6. Skim as much fat as possible from the cooking juices and set the baking dish over medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisk in the creme fraiche or heavy cream, and lower heat. Simmer the sauce for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it is reduced by about one third. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Taste, correct seasoning, and spoon sauce over the chicken. Serve hot or at room temperature.

2 to 4 portions

Source: The Silver Palate Cookbook, page 91, 1982 edition.

This is actually the first recipe that I have done that currently exists online at the creators’ website. It is listed under the heading “Store Favorites” and anyone can access it. It is kinda cool that I can compare my end product to theirs.

Anyway, the first step is to coat the chicken in mustard and let it marinate for 2 hours at room temperature. Here is one place where I had to modify the recipe. I did not have access to a whole chicken and only had chicken breasts at home (because of all of the COVID-19 shortages) and used only chicken breasts, NOT a whole chicken. I DID NOT adjust the amounts of the ingredients used for the sauce because I wanted to have chicken that was well-coated and full of mustardy flavor.

Coat the chicken with the mustard of your choosing. I went with only coarse mustard for the marinade (that was all that I had). The book says that they normally use a blend of half Dijon-style and half coarse Pommery-style mustard when cooking this dish, but because there are hundreds of kinds of mustard (really?!?!) the “possibilities are endless” for this recipe.

Once the breasts have finished marinating, transfer them to a pot that can withstand both the oven and stove top:

Next, pour the wine carefully around the edges of the chicken and sprinkle pepper into the dish for flavor:

Then, put the dish in the oven and bake. The original recipe says to bake for 30 to 40 minutes, but I baked the chicken for slightly less than 30 minutes and used a meat thermometer to determine when the chicken was cooked. I basted the chicken every five minutes to keep it moist. I freaked out initially when ALL of the mustard fell off of the chicken into the pan as I was basting, but I read ahead and realized that the mustard was eventually supposed to come off of the chicken and into the sauce anyway, so it didn’t really matter.

Remove the chicken from the oven when cooked, scrape the mustard off, and transfer the chicken to a serving platter to keep warm. I ended up keeping mine in the oven without the power on until it was time to serve. I had to really watch and make sure the chicken did not dry too much.

The next step is to make the sauce. I had to modify the recipe here as well. Skim the fat off of the sauce in the pan used to cook the chicken and set on medium heat.

I’m embarrassed by how gross the pan looks.

Bring to a boil and add heavy cream or the equivalent. I only had evaporated milk (COVID-19 shortage of cream in my area). I looked online and saw that evaporated milk could be used as a substitute for heavy cream (a 1:1 conversion) and added it to the sauce. I reduced the heat to low.

Finally, let the sauce simmer for 5 to 10 minutes on low heat until it is reduced by approximately a third. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then correct the seasoning (haha, like I know enough to do that) and serve over the chicken.

This was SO GOOD! The chicken was moist and tender (surprisingly so) and the sauce had a sharp yet creamy flavor. We loved it! I will say this, though…if you go to the Silver Palate website and check out their Chicken Dijonnaise it looks NOTHING LIKE THIS. I know I made a few modifications, but dang. It is like we made two completely different dishes! I guess the difference in the chicken to sauce ratio (mine had a lot more sauce) really made a difference in this recipe.

Regardless, this was delicious and worked out much better than I thought.

Time Travel Experience: This was a two-decade trip back in time. I got to learn about the Silver Palate and thought about all of these cool people from the 1980s getting this cookbook and using it to entertain their friends at dinner parties. I also go to go back to 1993 and remember Hellmann’s Dijonnaise (which, come to think of it, I don’t think I ever got to try…is it even still available?), so that was cool. I always like it when I have the actual cookbook in my hands, as I did with this one. There is something to be said about having a book that was used in many kitchens back in the 1980s…it just makes it feel more authentic.

Overall Experience: 10/10! I fantasized about being a New Yorker (from any time period) and being able to stop at a place like the Silver Palate on the way home from work for all of my culinary needs. Sometimes, I do wish I lived in a place like New York and had access to neat shops like this. Overall, I was impressed that we were able to make such a delicious dish despite having to alter some of the steps. The quarantine will not keep us down!

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