I’ve mentioned before my lack of proclivity for baking…both the process and result just don’t really do it for me. All that work and fuss for something unnecessary that isn’t a meal. (Let me rephrase that—SHOULDN’T be a meal.) Which is why “Savory Baking” by Mary Cech is a longtime favorite. It allows me to make, say, a cobbler, crumble, or profiterole, but one that’s actually useful.
Perhaps my favorite recipe out of the whole book, flavor-wise, is for this Brown Betty, which replaces apples with chicken and fennel, and instead of using butter and brown sugar to meld everything together, swaps it out for a Dijon cream sauce.
As below, it makes 4 fairly standard servings.
• 1 T butter, plus a little extra to line the dish: 6 cents
• 1/2 cup finely chopped onion: 12 cents
• 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored and either chopped or thinly sliced: $1.79
• Salt: 1 cent
• 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks: $1.69
• 2 T white wine or chicken broth (I used water with just a spot of Better Than Bouillon): 2 cents
• 1 1/2 cups cream: $1
• 3 T Dijon mustard: 20 cents
• 1 T honey: 20 cents
• 1/4 tsp white pepper (for aesthetic purposes; if you don’t have white, it’s fine to use black): 1 cent
• 1/3 cup soft bread crumbs [link]: $0
• 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs: 50 cents
• 1/2 tsp salt: 1 cent
• 1/4 tsp pepper: 1 cent
• 2 T butter, melted: 12 cents
• 2 T chopped parsley (garden): $0
TOTAL: 64 cents
GRAND TOTAL: $5.09 + .64 = $5.73/3 = $1.91
Mix the bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl, add the melted butter and stir until well combined. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat 1 T of the butter in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel and a pinch of salt and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, grease the dish you’ll be using. A gratin dish is best. (In the picture you’ll see I used a 1-quart ramekin; it was all I had this time around, but I don’t recommend it.) If you’re fancy, you could make these in individual dishes.
When the onion and fennel are softened, add the chicken pieces to the pan. When the chicken is cooked through, deglaze the pan with the wine or chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits. Add the honey, Dijon, and cream. Bring to a boil, and boil until reduced a bit. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust if necessary.
Pour into the prepared dish and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbly.