Monday, September 17, 2012

Serious Meal Two, Part Two: Mains: Braised Chicken with Sherry & Cream, Pommes Boulangere

So.. then there was Main Course. This is a great recipe. It managed to feel both something special and perfectly-at-ease food.  Not too fussy or unusual, but with amazing flavour.

For mains we had:
  • Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream
    • Glazed carrots (as per previously)
    • Steamed sugar snap peas
    • Pommes Boulangere
These dishes were pretty much all Heston Blumenthal at Home recipes. Well, except steamed peas. You can figure those out.

Here I'm going to cover the potato side dish - Pommes Boulangere, and then the Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream. Yum. (Note, if you're just here for the chicken, scroll on down..)

Pommes Boulangere

Okay, so this dish is a variant of a dish you are probably familiar with - layered baked potatoes cooked with cream. This version has you cooking the potatoes in stock. Let's see how we went...

Firstly, you cooked some white wine. You are supposed to cook it down by a third. You know, it is actually quite difficult to guage a reduction of a third for a small volume of liquid (100ml). 

So then you add the stock (in this case chicken to match the main dish) and reduce that by half. Again, I found this difficult to judge accurately.
While that's doing its thing, you take thinly sliced onions.
And the cover them with an obscene amount of oil. I read the "cover with" part about four times to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding it. Nope. In it goes.
Okay, the stock is reduced and now has its time infusing away...

Onions cooking.... and more cooking...

And look! Super soft, super sweet onions with all that oil drained off. Surprisingly enough, they really didn't seem all that oily afterwards...
 So then it is really just the dance you know.. layer your thinly sliced potato with bits of butter (of course, it's Heston after all) and salt and pepper.  Oh and those super-soft onions.

You pour in a chunk of the stock/wine/thyme mix and bake it in the oven. Here, I wished I'd stuck the recipe more - you are supposed to used a weighed out amount, I just poured in enough to cover it, which in hindsight was a mistake as they were a bit too wet overall. I should have weighed out the liquid as this would have kept it from being too wet.


What I learned

  • Measure that stock!
  • Scary amounts of oil can lead to tasty results
  • You need a seriously heavy tray to go on top to squish them nicely down.


The flavour was great, without being as rich as the cream version can be from time to time. It's only real downside was that it still had some liquid in it pooling - which was totally my fault for not weighing the volume of liquid to be added. Which means, depending on how accurately you do those reducing stages, may mean you're out quite a bit. I'd certainly make it again though, far from a failure or anything.

Guest opinions

Well received (...though general agreement on the 'a bit wet').

Okay.. now for the mains!

Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream

This was a seriously good dish. And not too difficult or time consuming.  It was possibly my favourite Heston dish I've tried to date.

So, let's make it!

Firstly, as an optional step, you can brine your chicken. I did so, but only for about 2 hours (less than than recommended 4 hours). This certainly still helped, making for tasty plump chicken thighs.
While my chicken had a bath, I sliced up a serious amount of onion, leeks and garlic.
Then, the chicken thighs (one per person) were seasoned. I was worried that this wasn't going to be enough, but was a good size serve, especially once all the vegetables were considered also.

 You brown the chicken, then put it aside to cook that pile of onion, garlic and leek.

Slow cook your onion, leek and garlic.
Then in goes the sherry.

I'll note that I couldn't find any of the specific sherry Heston suggested you use, and the bottle shop person had no idea what they were. But what I did buy was the best genuine Spanish sherry I could. This was not cheap I think around $25 for the bottle - but I have plenty left over, and its delicious. I never thought of sherry  being particularly tasty but now I see why all those grannies are getting tipsy on it! Decent alcohol tastes good, who would have guessed! <insert mock surprise here.> Given it is a big flavour component of the dish, I'd certainly think in this case it's worth the extra. Think of it as the money you saved buying chicken thighs instead of some expensive cut of meat.
Which then gets the alcohol flamed off. It gave a pleasing "woof" too...
See the flames?
You know what this dish needs, right? Added richness. This time from cream, not butter.The stock goes in now too. Then the liquid is reduced to improve flavour and reduce volume.

Okay, now the chicken goes in to braise, and so into the oven.
Okay, all done and ready to come out. (It gets cooled in the liquid, soaking up that flavoured goodness.)
So then chicken is put aside while you make up the final sauce.

Next step, as is often the case, is to strain all that onion and such out from the braising liquid.

I do have to note that the sauce here tastes delicious.
So the strained braising liquid now gets reduced to a sauce. Mmm. Smelt really good.

While that is reducing you prepare the vegetables that get added to the finish dish - baby onions and mushrooms. I do recommend using Heston's suggested blanching method to make peeling the baby onions easier. Though I just poured the boiling water into a bowl in the sink, with a second sink of cold water.
Herbed onions, and halved champignons all set.
Guess what this dish needs? Butter!

All the onions go side down... so they can brown up nicely. I love this second photo.. looks very magazine-like 'casual'.

Then the mushrooms get much the same treatment... butter.. plus mushrooms, cooked until they were brown and lovely. 

Then, it was really just assembly. Mix all the chicken, mushrooms, onion and sauce together with a touch of cheese, mustard and truffle oil. Heat up the reserved chicken and you're set to serve.

Things I learned from this recipe:

  • Sherry is surprisingly tasty.
  • Not all cream dishes have to be crazily rich (which is good, cos my stomach tends to not appreciate super-rich food). 
  • Again, straining sauces leads to amazing flavour + smooth richness of mouthfeel (Sorry, I had to go all food critic there for a second.)


Now, you know I really, really don't think the above image does this dish justice. Because that chicken was wonderful. As in... possibly-the-tastiest-chicken-dish-I've-ever-made wonderful. I was worried it would be too rich what with the sherry and cream, but it was just lovely. Chicken perfectly cooked through, sauce so, so tasty. If the potatoes had been a nice neat stack instead of a tasty mess, then I would have been hard pressed to self-criticise a single element. And that wasn't the fault of the braised chicken, so .. yes. A most excellent dish. I'd make it again.I also liked that it was doable on a single day, without requiring a lot of multiple day preparation which was a nice change too.

There was a fair bit of sauce left over, and I did consider if you could stretch it by adding extra chicken pieces. However, I decided that if you did, you would not have enough sauce for the chicken to sit in and braise properly, so in this case I think Heston got to quantities right. I will admit that the following night I cooked some extra chicken cutlets and we ate the most amazing leftovers using the sauce and potatoes. (And a little dessert left over too...) 

Guest opinions

Much enjoyment, every one cleaned their plates, and some opted for extra sauce to eat with their bread. Definitely a winner. Guest:  "Mmmm... So good!" I wish I could add more comments, but there was really an awful lot of eating, and not a lot of discussion beyond general "this is really nice" type statements. I really should remember to get scores out of ten...

Next time: Final part - part 3, Dessert. (And if my visitor post counters are anything to go by, that's mostly the one you are waiting for!)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the detail, people coming and although I'm panicing I'd like to impress.
    Maybe I will with this.