Sunday, 24 June 2012

Cookbook: Chicken Alfredo Landa

Time for an earnest chat. Regular readers of this cookblog may have noticed that the Inimitable Mittington Cookbook has been strangely silent on the subject of meat. There is a good reason for that. To wit: meat is the best of fares and the worst of fares.

On the one hand meat is marvellous. It is by far the most interesting, multi-faceted, and gratifying victual, equalled by very few ingredients from the floral kingdom. But, on the other hand, there are many things deeply wrong and disturbing about meat. The animal suffering involved in growing and reaping it; the scandalous waste of precious resources while there is starvation in the world (seven kilos of vegetable proteins being required to produce one kilo of animal protein); the shocking pollution produced by the factory farms, particularly pig stables; the most detrimental health effects caused by overconsumption of animal products; its price…! All of it adds up to a screaming J’Accuse against the Sins of the Meat.

I have no doubt that all you readers of taste, sophistication and integrity (no other people read Metis Meets Mittington!) have struggled with this dilemma at some time or other. A few of you will have turned vegetarian and liberated yourselves of the moral burden the hard way. Others will have decided just to go ahead and care no more, covering up their shame with a verbal fig leaf such as ‘Life is Hard On All Of Us’ or ‘Can’t save the entire world by myself now, can I?’ Ah yes: we all wriggle around in the moral mire and, being only mortal, we merely do the best we can…

My own solution is rather more pragmatic; or cowardly and wishy-washy if you will. It comes down to this: do eat meat, but reduce the quantity to the utmost. Chose recipes which require only a minimum of meat for a maximum of flavour. And if you do make a meat dish – like steak – don’t be Texan or Argentinian, but stick to a modest piece. It is better for your health, for the environment, for the Third World, for animal welfare, and – not to forget – for your wallet! What more can you ask in exchange for a minor sacrifice?

So there you have the reason why, so far, the Mittington Cookbook has offered you only vegetarian recipes or low-meat dishes. And why I will continue to do so in the future. But… not today. Today we are going to indulge just a little, with the simple but delicious

Chicken Alfredo Landa

Chicken Alfredo Landa is a fine, everyday dish to get away from the eternal Fried Chicken, Grilled Chicken, Baked Chicken, Broiled Chicken and Sautéed Chicken. It consists essentially of slices of white meat in a yummy sauce. It would take a little too long to explain why I baptised this recipe with the name of the famous Spanish actor (movie-lovers among you surely remember the fellow: he’s the one that sniffed out pheasants in Los Santos Inocentes). But it had to do with both of them pretending to be something which they are not (the chicken masquerading as Chinese duck; Mr Landa pretending to be a far worse actor than he really is, so as to find his niche in the dismal movie industry of the Franco era), and both having to do with breasts (chicken breasts in the recipe; young lady’s chests popping out of polka-dot bikinis and itsy-bitsy baby-dolls in the dismal Franco-era movies…)

Alfredo Landa in one of those roles...

What do we need for this recipe? Well, very few things, really. Only this:

Chicken breast (a.k.a. ‘white meat’ as opposed to legs, ‘dark meat’)
Ginger powder
Cumin powder
1 litre of orange juice
A small glove of garlic
A dash of soy sauce (preferably the sweet kind)
A spoonful of red hot pepper sauce of any kind (optional)
Parsley (optional, mainly for decoration)

First things first. And what I absolutely must impress upon you all is this: don’t even THINK of making Chicken Alfredo Landa if you do not have any Maizena ready at hand (Maizena being finely ground corn flour). This is not some cookbook snobbery of the sort that intones, in ever so mellow banker’s wife’s staccato: ‘Oh, you couldn’t possibly make an acceptable Cordone Azzurro unless you employ that very special truffle-flavoured virgin first pressing olive oil sold by our dear friend Giovanni Barbieri in his family delicatessen on the Rienzi square right behind the Verona Opera Amphitheatre…’ No, it is much more straightforward than that, dear reader. If you have no Maizena available, this dish will turn out absolutely awful. Practically uneatable. Tart, greasy and unpleasant. A waste of good meat, time, effort and your reputation as a cook (not to mention mine).

Then Second Things: how much meat? Well, the reasonable minimum, as I explained above. And the rule here is pretty simple. The white meat, or ‘double breast’ of one reasonably sized chicken ought to feed three people. Do, however, remember that the best chicken meat comes from free range chicken, which is considerably more expensive, but has a much richer flavour, and is a lot better for your karma since you will not have been instrumental in the torture of a bird during its preposterously short life. Consequently, IF you do the right thing and buy free range, you are justified in calculating One Chicken to Two Diners.

All that said, we can get to work. Take the chicken breasts and slice them lengthwise into thick filés, that is to say: the white meat of one entire chicken ought to result in four or six slices. Arrange these on a plate. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, some cumin and abundant ginger powder. If you like your food hot, then daub the meat with hot sauce or paste (red or green Tabasco, Sambal, Mexican chilly pepper paste, etc.)

Now get a deep frying pan. Fry the clove of garlic in olive oil. Then fry the chicken filés quickly on both sides. Once the meat is seared closed, pour in as much orange juice as needed to cover the meat. Also pour in some soy sauce, but don’t overdo. Lower the fire and let it simmer nicely for about 15 minutes.

Once you figure the meat is done but not dried out, put two or three spoonfuls of Maizena into a cup, mix with a little water until you have a liquid paste. Pour this into the pan and stir well, moving the pieces of meat around with a fork. The sauce will now thicken, and the cornstarch absorbs and transforms the greasy taste of the frying oil, bringing to the fore the sugars in the orange juice. Let it simmer for three minutes. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top of the meat, either in the pan, which can then go to the table, or on the plates, if you prefer to give each diner his allotted portion.

Since this is a sweet-sour dish, you may want to accompany with something salty, like French fries, and perhaps a green salad without vinegar. 


  1. Ha, I thought we were the only people who used Maizena. I think many people call it corn flour? Anyway, this recipe just made me hungry - and I had already eaten. I shall have to try it!

  2. There you have it! Not only money is globalized, but Maizena as well! I seem to remember that our American cousins use 'corn starch' to refer to the splendid staple. But what's the difference, I ask. A Flour with any other name...

    Yours, Alfred

  3. Re. Maizena, presumably Polenta would do?

    1. Hmmmm... I don't know. Seems too heavy really. Don't take the risk. Just get some corn flour of whatever brand...