There I was holding a tiny chick in my hands. It was so light I could barely feel its weight. I had just watched how over a million eggs at the hatchery each week are incubated, hatched, and chicks sent off to farms. It was a fascinating process. Each step is carefully monitored with people, equipment, and technology. The hatchery was the first stop on a chicken tour. As we went on to the next destination, I wondered what was to see and learn next. Memories of the experience flooded my mind as I was cooking Garlicky Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms.
The next stop was a chicken farm. It would be the first time for me to go inside a commercial chicken house. But before anyone could walk through the door, we had to put on some very glamorous attire. Here’s a photo of me and Isabel aka Family Foodie and founder of the Sunday Supper Movement and Food and Wine Conference.
The attire is to protect the chickens. They have to be very careful to not bring in any bacteria or disease from the outside. The chickens must stay healthy and especially protected from Avian Flu. Their time in the house is relatively brief. Then they are shipped on to the processing plant. One of the plants was the next stop on the tour.
We started in the middle of the plant. Rows of people were cutting meat from the bone with incredible speed and precision. We went on to see packaging and shipping and then headed to the start of the line. Each and every chicken on the line is inspected by highly trained people. That was something I didn’t imagine happening. It was quite interesting to see it in action.
The tour was a very educational experience. I saw how much care is put into each step along the way. The farmers are quiet, hard-working people. Chickens are larger these days because of breeding. Hormones are not used at all. Antibiotics are only given if needed and has to be prescribed by veterinarians. The sheer volume of chickens hatched, grown, and processed is astounding (billions each year). So now when I pick up a package of chicken at the store, I know what went into making it happen.
About the garlicky balsamic chicken and mushrooms: It’s an adaption to a recipe I’ve had in my collection for over 20 years. It’s typed up on plain white paper with no notes of origination. I’ve seen similar recipes on the internet so the base of it must be a popular one. For my version, chicken is browned in olive oil then put aside while onions are softened and garlic is warmed. Then the chicken goes back in the pan along with mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, a bay leaf, and thyme. It simmers until the chicken is cooked through and both it and mushrooms are tender. A pat of butter is stirred in at the end to finish the sauce with a boost of richness.
I am grateful for going on the chicken tour. It was a part of the Chicken Media Summit held by the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. Attendees included industry leaders, media representatives, registered dietitians, and food bloggers. It was an open format where any questions were welcomed and answered in great detail. The people in the industry are passionate about what they do and willing to share their knowledge and experiences. It is their passion I’ll remember when cooking chicken. My favorite is chicken and dumplings. I’ll be making it soon along with trying new recipes too. So stay tuned to see what’s next.
Garlicky Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms
- 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion about 1 cup, thinly slices
- 6 garlic cloves finely chopped or minced
- 1 pound sliced mushrooms
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
If chicken breasts are thicker than 1/2-inch, place them in a large zip top plastic bag or between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them using a meat mallet until 1/2-inch thick.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess.
Heat olive oil in a deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Add chicken to the pan and cook until browned on one side, about 3 minutes.
Turn chicken over and brown the other side, about 3 minutes.
Remove chicken from pan and place on a plate.
Lower heat to medium. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Return chicken and any juices on the plate to the pan.
Add mushrooms, broth, vinegar, bay leaf, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium-low heat. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through (has an internal temperature of 165°F when tested with an instant-read thermometer).
Remove chicken from the pan and place on a warm serving platter. Cover chicken loosely with aluminum foil.
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until reduced about half.
Add butter and stir until melted. Discard bay leaf.
Spoon mushroom sauce over chicken and serve.
Garlicky Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms is tender chicken with an incredible mushroom sauce flavored with balsamic vinegar, garlic, and onion.
Disclosure: I received an all-expense paid trip to attend the 2015 Chicken Media Summit from the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. I was under no obligation to post about the tour or my experience. All opinions are my own unless otherwise stated or contained within a guest post.