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Chicken and Spice and Everything Nice

My friend Alice Vasseur has a most expressive face. Her smiles and frowns are oversized, and when she’s excited, her eyes widen and her brows look like they’re going to take off. And so there we were, having tea in my Paris kitchen on a chilly winter afternoon, when all of a sudden her face lit up and she exclaimed, “I forgot to tell you what I made last night—it’s so easy and so good, and my friends loved it: chicken with speculoos!”

Speculoos are thin, buttery cinnamon and spice cookies that, although crunchy, melt in your mouth like shortbread. They’re a specialty of northern France, Belgium, and Holland, most popular at Christmastime, but available year-round, even in American supermarkets (look for LU Cinnamon Sugar Spice Biscuits or LU Bastogne). They are paired most often—when they’re not served alongside tea or coffee (they’re great dunkers)—with foie gras or something gamy. Using the cookies with chicken was a leap and Alice’s little stroke of brilliance.

This dish has only three main ingredients, chicken breasts, crème fraîche, and speculoos, and it takes just 10 minutes to prepare. It’s not only unusual and delicious, it’s also a recipe that perfectly represents French home cooking today: it makes supermarket ingredients look stylish and taste haute.

Crème fraîche is really what you should use here, as much for its tang as for its heatability. If you must, you can substitute heavy cream, but not sour cream, which will curdle and break over heat. And, while I love homemade speculoos, this recipe is best with store-bought.–Dorie Greenspan

LC Cookie Swap Note

Although we do find this quirky creation to be quite lovely, let’s be clear about one thing: Chicken and Christmas cookies crumbs in cream isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of an ideal dinner. Although if the notion of fancying up plain chicken breasts with a lightly spiced sauce with a rich, velvety texture, a hint of sweetness, and a naughty sense of dessert before dinner, by all means, you really shouldn’t let another season pass before trying this. The result draws much of its personality from the cookies you use. Speculoos, should you have them available to you, are perfect in this recipe, although gingersnaps will also do nicely, whether store-bought or made from scratch.

Cinnamon Crunch Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 30 M
  • Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 speculoos (LU Cinnamon Sugar Spice Biscuits or LU Bastogne) or 2 large gingersnap cookies, more if you’re daring
  • 1 cup crème fraîche (or substitute heavy cream)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, preferably organic, without tenders
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil

Directions

  • 1. Place the cookies in a resealable plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin or use a serrated knife to chop the cookies unevenly. You want some cookie powder, some cookie crumbs, and some small cookie chunks. Stir the cookie powder, crumbs, and chunks into the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper.
  • 2. Pat the chicken breasts dry and slice them crosswise into strips about a scant inch wide.
  • 3. Place a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the butter or oil. Add the chicken strips and sauté, adding more butter or oil if necessary, until the chicken is lightly colored on all sides and almost cooked through, about 7 minutes.
  • 4. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the cookie mixture to the pan. Bring to a boil and cook for another minute, stirring constantly, until the chicken is coated and completely cooked and the cookies seem to have melded into the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve as soon as it’s ready.
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