And so we gathered one last time.

One last time to toast our friend, Margaret, who passed away in January. One last time to make her favorite dishes and share our favorite stories. To revel in the grace and charm she brought to book club.

Carol brought hummus and tiny bowls of cucumber-tomato salad.

Ginger brought a tossed salad bursting with fruit, goat cheese and almonds.

Sharon brought quinoa.

Tracy brought cheesecake (Margaret’s favorite dessert until she had to go gluten-free).

And I brought mustard chicken.

Mustard chicken was the first entree Margaret cooked for us. I remember her standing in her black, white and cherry red kitchen whipping up the chicken’s sauce and urging us to help ourselves to wine. She was so excited about her book choice, Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grownups, that she couldn’t wait to start discussing.

“What did you think of the book?” she gushed — a lets-talk-before-we-even-sit-down mantra that we came to expect from her each month.

Margaret shared her mustard chicken recipe with us, but no one ever made it. It was delicious, but the recipe was quintessentially Margaret … “Take some chicken and marinate it in a variety of mustards. Pour on some wine. Bake it.”

“How much chicken?” we’d ask.

“As much as you need.”

“How much mustard?”

“Whatever you need.”

“How much wine?”

“It depends, you guys. How much chicken are you using?”

We loved that about her. Whether it was raising children, biking to Georgetown or preparing dinner for eight, Margaret took life with a breezy, it-is-what-it-is freedom. So measurements be damned … trust your instincts and use what you need.

“To Margaret,” we said last night.

To Margaret.

Margaret’s Mustard Chicken

I’m pretty breezy in the kitchen myself, but Margaret’s original recipe was a little too laissez-faire even for me. Here it is, with a bit more structure added to it. This recipe will feed eight people easily.

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 packages individually wrapped Purdue chicken breasts
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup white wine

The night before you plan to serve this dish, mix the sour cream and whipping cream in a bowl. Poke holes in a sheet of plastic wrap, then cover the bowl and let it sit out all night. The next morning, stir it and put it in the refrigerator. (You’ve just made creme fraiche!)

creme fraiche

A few hours before dinner (or the morning of), mix the olive oil and mustards in a large casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper, then add the chicken. Turn it so the mustard coats everything evenly. Refrigerate:

chicken

About 45 minutes before dinner, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Pour the wine over the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, turning it once.

After the 30 minutes have passed, remove the chicken from the oven and place the pieces on a plate:

chicken cooked

Scrape the liquid in the cooking pan into a saucepan:

chicken sauce

Bring to a boil and whisk until slightly reduced. Stir 1/2 cup creme fraiche into the boiling liquid. Continue to boil and whisk until the mixture is slightly thickened:

mustard sauce

Pour over the chicken, and serve.

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