Braised chicken with sherry and cream, Heston Blumethal (Heston Blumenthal at home)
Time for another bit of fan worship. Of course we all know who HB is now, but I fell in love with his extraordinary ideas from the very first time I saw him on TV. A number of my friends have been lucky enough to visit The Fat Duck, and tell me it is every bit as awe-inspiring as the ratings would have it. Some years ago my sister bought me The Fat Duck cookbook, which is an weighty and beautiful tome, although I have yet to manage a recipe from it. Some time this year… A few years later, my elder three bought me this particular recipe book for Father’s day, and it has been a wonderful guide. Every recipe I have cooked from it has been fabulous, so expectations were high.
When I was growing up, Mum used to make a dinner by cooking chicken breasts in a casserole with a can or two of Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup. If you’ve never tried this, it’s definitely worth a visit. It was one of the go-to recipes I carefully noted down on a piece of paper that I grandly entitled “The Cookery Bible” about 24 hours before I left home for my gap year, in the realisation that I was about to be fending for myself. Over the following years I expanded this dish, incorporating onions, blue cheese, fresh mushrooms and herbs, but there was definitely still something to be said for the original. This recipe brought back memories of that dish, although this is definitely the 3-star version. Extravagant amounts of sherry and cream are combined with stock and vegetables to braise the chicken delicately. The strained sauce is reduced, and then small onions and caramelised onions are added (along with another splendid wadge of butter). The whole thing is finished with subtle amounts of cheese and mustard, lardons, herbs and truffle oil (which sadly I didn’t have to hand). Truffle oil aside, this is a pretty thrifty dish to make, with no tricky techniques. Quite a bit of time is required overall, but for most of the recipe there is plenty of time between stages to be getting on with other things.
The result was, as anticipated, excellent. The depth of flavour in the sauce was extraordinary. The meat was moist and tender, even without the recommended extra 4-6 hours brining. I served it with some potato wedges – I would normally have thrown together some greens as well, but child number 4 was not in hugely cooperative mood, so I prioritised! I did feel slightly extreme cooking an HB recipe for dinner with the children, but the chicken thighs needed eating, and it’s always good to do a testrun before a dinner party, surely?