The other night I was perusing my cookbooks, trying to find yet another way to cook chicken. For some reason, I was not in the mood to make a white sauce, so when I saw Nigella Lawson’s Creamed Chicken in her wonderful book ‘Feast’, I was intrigued. The only problem was that Nigella’s Creamed Chicken had no vegetables in it, and I had some particularly nice leeks I wanted to use. Oh, and some mushrooms as well.
Nigella’s recipe did help me to find a way to avoid a roux, and ironically it was a technique I have used before. You can make lovely cream sauces without flour. They are not always the same texture or consistency, but they are delicious. Among other recipes, I’ve used this technique in my French Country Chicken and my Chicken in a Mustard and Tarragon Sauce.
I dispensed with Nigella’s butter and garlic oil combination, and just used butter instead. I also used single instead of double cream (light cream instead of heavy cream) and played around with the stock to cream ratio. If you are feeling like you can handle the richness, double cream would still make a very nice version of this recipe though. I also added nutmeg to give the sauce a bit more depth. The ‘secret ingredient’ most people can’t identify in savoury sauces, nutmeg gives a lovely ‘I don’t know what it is but I like it’ flavour.
In the end, I changed the recipe so much I honestly think I can call it my own, but it was definitely inspired by Nigella. I am deeply grateful to her for rescuing me from my culinary funk that particular evening, and inspiring me to make a meal my family absolutely loved.
Using cream tends to make me feel a bit guilty, so I served this with wholegrain (brown) rice, in an attempt to make it healthier, but you can use any kind of rice. Basmati would be particularly nice or indeed you could serve couscous with this recipe.
To serve 4
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups sliced leeks
2 cups sliced mushrooms
⅓ cup chicken stock
4 chicken breasts (without skin)
½ to ¾ cup cream (light or heavy)
an eighth of a teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground if possible
salt and pepper to taste
paprika for garnish
cooked rice, to serve
Melt the butter in a very large frying pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and stir fry for three or four minutes, then add the mushrooms and stir fry for a few minutes longer. Increase the heat just a bit, and add the chicken stock.
Season the chicken breasts well with salt and pepper and nestle them in the pan along with the onions and mushrooms. Cook for five minutes each side, and then lower the heat and pop the lid on for a few minutes more, until the chicken registers 165ºF on a meat thermometer and no pink remains inside.
Remove the chicken and keep warm. Put the heat on the frying pan back up to medium and stir in ½ cup of the cream. Grate in the nutmeg, and see how the sauce comes together. Add a little bit more cream if you feel the sauce needs it. Bear in mind this is not meant to be a super thick sauce though, just light and creamy. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if you feel the sauce needs it.
Serve each chicken breast over the rice with a quarter of the leeks, mushrooms and sauce over top. Garnish with paprika.