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Mustard Chicken for

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day, or le St. Valentin, is here to brighten up the grey skies of February. And it is, of course, also the moment to celebrate love. As in so many things, the French do it differently.


I learned the distinction early on in my life here because, of course, I brought my traditions with me. I would decorate the kitchen and the table for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, like I always do for occasions. I’d make heart-shaped scones for the kids in the morning and a heart-shaped cake for supper. At one of the first wine tastings I hosted, the date was right before le St. Valentin and fifteen people arrived to sit around the kitchen island, where dancing cherubs and hearts dangling from the chandelier in the kitchen kept us all company. Most of the guests didn’t really notice, but my friend Betty did. She looked up, looked at me, and burst into laughter. That’s when I learned, definitively, that I was an absolute extra-terrestrial. Here, St. Valentine’s is for lovers. Not for anyone else!  No one decorates. It’s a private affair!

mustard chicken


I went to find out the origins of this day, which so many consign to the poetic phrases of the Hallmark card company, and was surprised at what I found. Suffice it to say that during Roman times women weren’t celebrated but rather persecuted on this pagan fête, that there was no romance but violence, no soft words, no fancy phrases. Thank goodness time has passed.


Some scoff at the tradition of a day devoted to love, but not me. I love that St. Valentine’s day is a moment for special recognition of those you love (my dear French friends, I haven’t changed my tradition – anyone near me on this day gets celebrated!). And why not, even if the person you are celebrating is yourself? What better way to do this than with a special meal, rich with tangy flavor, that surprises and delights?


I know you’ll love the mustard chicken here. The recipe is written for one, per the video, but of course all you have to do to include the intended(s), is multiply the ingredients! Happy Fête de St. Valentin and a big Bon Appétit!


The recipe makes a quick and gorgeous dinner for one, but can easily be multiplied to feed more!
Servings: 1 serving


  • 1 chicken leg and thigh with skin
  • 1 teaspoon piment d’Espelette or hot paprika
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Coarse or fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic green germ removed, cut in matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup;125mi white wine such as Sauvignon blanc, or water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon grainy mustard
  • ½ cup; 125ml heavy cream
  • ¼ Savoy cabbage trimmed, cut in very thin strips, rinsed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Several flat leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
  • Fleur de sel, for garnish


  • Carefully separate the skin from the chicken and sprinkle the piment d’Espelette all over the meat. Bring the skin back up over the meat.
  • Heat the butter and the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high to high heat until the butter is foaming and add the chicken. Brown it on both sides until it is golden, which will take about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, shake it down around the chicken and cook just until it begins to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add the white wine, stir, then stir in the mustard. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat so it is simmering, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Pour in the cream, stir well, then scatter the cabbage over the chicken. Cover the dish and cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the cabbage is wilted and tender, about 20 minutes. You can turn the chicken once.
  • Just before serving, transfer the chicken to a plate, turn off the heat under the pan and stir in the egg yolks until they thicken the sauce, which will take a minute or two.
  • Place a bit of the sauce and cabbage on a warmed dinner plate, set the chicken on top, and cover the chicken with as much of the remaining sauce as you’d like. Garnish with the parsley leaves and fleur de sel. Serve immediately!

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