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Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Versailles - The Best Cuban Lemon Garlic Chicken In California!

I don't miss living in L.A. The traffic, the insane drivers (you will be insane, too, if you have to battle other drivers for hours each week), the smog, the endless rows of ugly stucco mini-malls and potholed streets.

But, I do miss the fantastic ethnic restaurants. Not quite as diverse as San Francisco, Los Angeles encompasses a cornucopia of mom-and-pop restaurants started by immigrants from around the globe. Living in Culver City, my two favorite places were Emerald Thai and Versailles. The latter is a Cuban restaurant and it looks like all the photos I've seen of Havana eateries--the brightly colored walls, the lazy ceiling fans, the cheap tables and a bevy of white-shirted, black-panted waiters with towels slung around their arm.

The restaurant Versailles makes the best chicken I've had anywhere--very lemony and redolent of garlic--the skin crispy and the meat juicy and tender. I gave up eating chicken and meat long ago, but the greedy foodie in me couldn't resist when I had to drive past Culver City at lunchtime. I had to go in and taste it one more time!

I came home and made my own version, which I served to my boyfriend and his family. I stuck to my beans and rice this time, but was lauded for this Versailles-style lemon garlic chicken recipe. My boyfriend's dad said it was the best chicken he'd ever had! Try it and see what you think.

Tama's Versaille-Style Cuban Chicken In Lemon Garlic Sauce:

Ingredients For the Mojo Sauce (pronounced moe-hoe):
zest of 2 oranges
juice of 2 oranges (about 3/4 cup)
zest of 4 lemons
juice of 12 Meyer lemons (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon ground oregano
1/4 cup chopped white onion
1 1/2 heads of garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Ingredients For the Chicken:
4 chicken breasts, bone-in
1/2 cup butter, clarified
1/4 cup good white wine
1 tablespoon flour
a slice of onion, quartered, for garnish

Directions For the Mojo Sauce:
Peel the garlic. Set aside one third of the cloves; slice the rest. In a blender or food processor, puree the garlic, zest, juice, oregano, onion, salt and pepper until smooth and creamy. Set half aside. Use the other half to marinate the chicken in a large glass bowl for an hour, turning twice during this period so the chicken marinates evenly.

Directions For the  Chicken:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After marinating, remove the chicken to a tray or platter lined with paper towels and blot to dry. Pour the marinade from the bowl into a 9" x 13" glass baking dish.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan (cast iron pan works the best). When the butter bubbles, add the chicken, skin side down. Sear until golden brown, turning to sear the chicken on all sides. Turn off the heat under the frying pan so it can cool. Put the chicken into the baking dish, with skin facing up.

Carefully pour the reserved marinade into the frying pan (it will spatter if the pan is still very hot), stirring it into the butter. Whisk the flour into the wine and add to the sauce. Bring it to a low boil for 2-3 minutes, whisking occasionally to incorporate the flour as it thickens. Adjust the seasonings--the sauce should be VERY lemony.

Pour the sauce over the chicken, coating all the pieces. Tuck the reserved garlic cloves around the chicken breasts. Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature of 165 degrees). During baking, baste the chicken frequently. When the chicken is done, plate it on a deep dish pouring the rest of the sauce over it. Garnish with the onion slices. Serve with black beans and rice.

Notes: Chicken cooked with the bone in is always more flavorful than boneless. You can make this recipe with boneless breasts, but they will not be as divine. Bake for only 10-15 minutes. Use Meyer lemons, which are sweeter and more floral than ordinary lemons. If you must use regular lemons--Eureka or Lisbon--add a bit of sugar to the sauce. You can start with a tablespoon, then adjust to taste. Use clarified butter for a smooth sauce without foaming--look here on how to clarify butter. Use a good quality, buttery Chardonnay to cook with and to pair with the dish. Any off-flavors in the wine will show up in the sauce!

1 comment:

  1. I used to work in Culver City and ate at this Cuban restaurant. Is this the chicken I always ordered? With the black beans and rice? I am very far away from that restaurant and would love more than anything to surprise a Cuban friend and make this recipe. Can't wait!