Recipe Corner: Chef Jon Koobation’s Famous Chicken George

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This recipe is featured in Cooking With JON, the engaging cookbook written by award-winning chef Jon Koobation. Jon was the owner and head chef at the acclaimed Jon’s Bear Club in Reedley, California for several decades before he retired. Born in Dinuba, a small town in the central San Joaquin Valley, Jon’s history with The Bear Club started many years earlier. He learned his trade on the job, working first as a prep cook and sous chef at major Lake Tahoe-area restaurants before returning to Central California. He worked at the famed Vallis’ Restaurant in Kingsburg, the Redwood Inn of Sultana, Dinuba Ranch, and the Swedish Mill, and became The Bear Club’s executive chef in 1973. Through the 1970s and mid-1980s, Jon’s restaurant established itself as a fine steakhouse featuring excellent food and friendly customer service. “Using the freshest ingredients available each season was always appreciated by our guests,” says Jon, “and one of the reasons they chose to return again and again.”

His cookbook is a legacy of Jon’s vast culinary experiences, family traditions, and memories, and includes signature recipes like Charred Asparagus Roll-Ups, New York Steak, Lobster Bisque, Tortilla Crusted Salmon, Cabernet Braised Short Ribs, Cabbage Dolma with Beef and Lamb, and Jon’s Grandma Bazarian’s Armenian Shish Kebab. “I created this special chicken recipe for our first menu at Jon’s Bear Club in 1973. To this day, it was the most popular dinner entrée of all time, and has been copied by many restaurants since then,” he says.

 

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons butter

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1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced

8 artichoke bottoms or hearts

1 large lemon, zest and juice

1 tablespoon heavy cream

2 tablespoons cold butter

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

 

Serves 4.

Chicken:

Cut chicken breasts in half and remove the center cartilage. Season with salt and pepper.

In a skillet, over medium high heat, melt the butter and sauté the chicken for 3-4 minutes on one side, turn and add mushrooms and cook until chicken is firm to touch, 2-3 minutes more. Add the artichokes and lemon juice. Swirl the pan to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the cream and reduce for a minute or two, turn the heat off and add the butter, stirring until the butter is incorporated.

Note: You do not want the butter to completely melt, that’s what makes the mouth-watering sauce for this recipe. Serve on a warm plate with Armenian pilaf and fresh vegetables, and spoon sauce over the top.

 

Pilaf:

1/2 stick butter

10 pieces angel hair pasta, broken

1/2 cup almonds, blanched, skins removed

1 cup long grain rice or cracked wheat (bulgur)

2 cups Swanson’s chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon each Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

 

Preparation:

Melt the butter over moderate heat in a large stainless steel pot; add the pasta and almonds, brown, stirring constantly. When you smell the perfume of the browned butter, you are ready to add the rice. Stir, and combine the rice with the browned pasta to coat.

 

Add the chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine. On high heat, bring the pilaf to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.

The pilaf will be done in 20 minutes. Do not stir after the lid has been put on. Let pilaf rest for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl.

 

Jon is the recipient of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award in the California Restaurant Association’s “Best of the Valley” awards. Contact Jon at <mailto:chefjonkoobation@gmail.com> chefjonkoobation@gmail.com to order his book and for a personally signed copy. His book is also available for sale at The Market Grocery Store and at Sam’s Deli & Cucina in Fresno, California.

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