(Note: This story contains updated material. Please see below.)
Q: I am searching for a recipe that appeared in your paper many years ago. It's called: Rose Lewis' $3,000 third prize Lemon Mustard Chicken. My copy is crumbling and would love to print another if it's possible for you to locate it.
—Fran Gilbert, Skokie
A: I can't find this recipe in the Chicago Tribune archives and I've searched for it every way you could think of: "Rose Lewis," "third prize chicken," "lemon mustard chicken," even "Rose Lewis' $3,000 third prize lemon mustard chicken." The amount of prize money — way more than most newspapers would shell out for a recipe, believe me — makes me suspect this recipe may be from some sort of contest sponsored by a food company or maybe came from a magazine.
Maybe a reader has the recipe and can share it?
Too bad I can't find the recipe. Two of my favorite ingredients in cooking are lemons and mustard, especially with today's blander chickens. Your question got me thinking of all the simple chicken dishes I made using lemon, mustard and, often, cream, based on suggestions from Pierre Franey, the French chef who wrote the popular "60-Minute Gourmet" column in the New York Times and a series of subsequent "60-Minute" cookbooks.
My, 60 minutes seemed to go quickly 30 years ago. Now, an hour in the kitchen can seem like an eternity. But Franey's saute recipes still hold true. Here's my adaptation of a Franey recipe for chicken breasts with mustard sauce from a 1987 column that ran in the Tribune. The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar in lieu of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons tomato paste, which I never used. I tend to omit the white wine these days, using a little more lemon juice or broth instead. You can skip the cream but I love how the richness plays off the zesty zing of the mustard and lemon juice. Experiment with what you've got at home: Capers, fresh tarragon, pimento-stuffed olives, toasted pine nuts, strips of sauteed red pepper can all go into this dish.
Chicken breasts with mustard sauce
Prep: 25 minutes. Cook: 20 minutes. Makes: 4 servings
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, about 1 1/2 pounds
Salt to taste if desired
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley, optional
1.Sprinkle the chicken breast halves with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a heavy skillet and add the breasts, skin side down. Cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Turn the pieces and cook about 6 minutes longer.
2.Remove the chicken pieces to a warm platter and set aside. Add the onion and thyme to the skillet and cook briefly, stirring, until the onion is wilted. Add the lemon juice and wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half and add the cream. Bring to a full rolling boil and stir in the mustard. Put sauce through a strainer, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. There should be about 1/2 cup.
3.Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces and garnish, if desired, with parsley. Serve immediately.
Update: Lemon mustard chicken recipe found
This week's Daley Question column contained my plea for a chicken recipe requested by Fran Gilbert of Skokie. She called it: "Rose Lewis' Third Place $3,000 Lemon Mustard Chicken" recipe and thought she had found it in the Chicago Tribune. I combed the newspaper's computer archives and did a Google search without success.
So, I turned to readers. And readers responded in droves with links to websites and various newspaper archives. My favorite e-mail came from Craig L. Davis, director of Adult Services for the Chicago Public Library, who said he found the recipe easily using his library card and the library's online databases. "Free to cardholders!" he wrote. Guess I need to get a library card pronto.
I found the version of the recipe printed below online in a May 20, 1987, article by Marcia Bennett in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Seems Rose Lewis of Van Tassell, Wyo., came in third in that year's National Chicken Cooking Contest, a cook-off sponsored by the National Chicken Council, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group. Lewis was identified as a former mayor of the town, population 13, who had entered the chicken contest five times before placing third with her mustard-lemon recipe. Here it is as worded by the Post-Gazette. (Note: Some version on the Web call for butter instead of margarine.)
Lemon mustard chicken
6 broiler-fryer chicken thighs
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons prepared mustard
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons margarine
1. In small bowl, mix together lemon juice, lime juice and mustard; brush over chicken, coating well, and set aside.
2. In shallow dish, mix together salt, pepper, curry powder, oregano, lemon peel and breadcrumbs. Roll chicken in breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat on all sides.
3. In heavy baking pan or iron skillet, place margarine and melt over medium heat. Add chicken, skin side down and place in 350-degree oven. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes; turn chicken and bake 30 minutes longer or until fork can be inserted with ease. Place chicken on serving platter and garnish with lemon, lime and parsley. Makes 4 servings.