Recipe for success

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Do you give parties for staff? Or do you host client open houses? Do you do some of the cooking?

If so, consider this my contribution to planning for a late-holiday event or for any time of the year.

It is a recipe that I have used during the last decade and adapted as I needed. My "review" below, with rants and raves, apes the style of staff on-site hotel reviews.

Marinated Chicken (serving eight)

Salt and pepper
8 large chicken breasts, boned and skinned
2 cups chicken bouillon
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
5 cloves garlic, 4 cut in half
3 bay leaves
4 branches rosemary
5 branches sage
1 ounce pine nuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
White pepper
8 sprigs parsley

Salt and pepper chicken breasts. Put bouillon, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, halved garlic cloves, bay leaves and three branches each rosemary and sage in a large saucepan and boil for five minutes to allow vinegar to absorb perfumes of herbs.

Reduce heat, add chicken and cook until just tender, about five minutes (do not overcook or chicken will become dry and stringy); remove chicken from broth.

Make dressing: Toast pine nuts in 300-degree oven until golden, seven to eight minutes. In a blender, mix remaining balsamic vinegar, the olive oil and half the warm pine nuts. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Thinly slice chicken breasts on the bias. Finely chop remaining rosemary, sage, garlic clove and the parsley. Sprinkle chicken with chopped herbs and marinate in half the dressing for at least two hours or overnight in refrigerator.

Sprinkle with remaining dressing and pine nuts. This can be served atop lettuce.

Rants: Unless you have some very skinny chickens, the cooking does not happen in five minutes.

For my rather chubby chickens, I cooked about 10 minutes, with the lid on, and then did test cuts on every one before setting aside for slicing. They were tender.

Raves: This is an incredibly easy way to prepare a delicious cold chicken dish in advance (say, the night before) and to ensure compliments from guests about what a fine gourmet cook you are.

When the brew of herbs is bubbling, it is like perfume for the kitchen. It is not bad for the appetite either. I eat every odd-shaped piece of chicken that falls to the side during slicing. I couldn't serve any but perfect pieces, could I?

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