(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