When I was at university my cooking was fairly limited. I didn't have much money and so I stuck to cheap basics like pasta and lentil soup. Brownies and cookies were also a common remedy for the munchies. In addition to these foods, there is one recipe that always brings back those exciting years.
Our second year, one of my best friends was dating an uptight girl named Libby and as far as I'm concerned (and I think Tom will agree) the best thing to come out of the relationship was the recipe for mustard chicken she gave me. It's quick and simple and looks elegant (though meat-with-sauce never really photographs well, so you'll have to trust me). And it's remarkably tasty. Over the years, I've added a few touches here and there but the basic recipe was delicious on its own. I just can never resist tinkering.
Libby's Mustard Chicken
2 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup (roughly) sharp mustard
1 Tbs tarragon
3-4 Tbs flour
optional: 1 chopped shallot, a handful of lardons or chopped pancetta, a little wine
a little butter
1/2 cup cream or crème fraîche
Put a little butter in a pan and heat until it froths. If you are including the chopped shallot and lardons, add them and quickly fry them. Remove and reserve. Keep the pan hot and slather mustard over each of the chicken breasts. Sprinkle them with tarragon and dredge them through the flour. Add more butter to the pan (if necessary) and place the breasts in the pan. Keep the heat fairly high and sear them on each side. You can then lower the heat and let them finish cooking. Depending on the thickness of your breasts this will take anywhere from five to ten minutes . When the breasts are cooked through, remove them to a warm plate and cover them while you make the sauce. If you have a little white wine you can turn up the heat and use it to deglaze the pan, picking up an brown bits that have stuck to the pan. If you don't (or are a poor university student and don't want to waste anything as precious as alcohol!) it works just fine using the cream to deglaze. Put the lardons and shallot mixture back in the pan (if you are using them) and let the sauce bubble until it has reduced and thickened a bit. Stir in a little more mustard and taste for salt and pepper. If you use lardons you are less likely to need salt and even without them it will depend on your mustard.
Pour a little sauce over each of the breasts just before serving. The breasts will have a nice mustardy crust which will be perfectly complimented by the creamy more subtle mustard sauce. At university I think we always made this with rice to absorb the sauce.
If there are any college students out there looking to impress a date, I can guarantee that this recipe will do the trick. It's not prohibitively expensive but the cream makes it seem really luxurious. You can skip the lardons and shallot and it will stand very well on its own. Searing the chicken in a crust of mustard and flour keeps it very tender and juicy. And it goes great with a cheap bottle of dry white wine!