Wednesday 21 March 2012

Staying in !

God, sometimes I miss eating out in expensive restaurants. When I was a young chef, many years ago, most of my meagre weeks wages would have gone on eating out.  It was imperative to research new restaurants, know what was happening, keep ahead of the game.  Now a days most of my weekly wage goes on Ballet lessons for my daughter or Judo lessons for my son.  Now and then we might splash out on lunch at Pizza Express.  The closest I get to a Michelin Star meal is to cook up something special myself and watch Michel Roux at the same time on Masterchef.

So a few weeks ago, I was watching Raymond Blanc's "The Very Hungry Frenchman".  I have to admit it was pretty bad.   He must have said "Oh là là" about 15 times in the first half an hour but you have got to love him and my god, some of that food looked fine.  It's the quality of the produce that is so spectacular; the cheeses, the saussison, the meat .... it is all so fantastic. The program I was watching had a Poulet de Bresse chicken with Morels and I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Even if I can't afford a Poulet de Bresse Chicken -  £40.00 a bird! I can afford a free-range corn fed chicken and I might just stretch to some dried Morels. This is a classic recipe and I love the idea of the use of sherry with the mushrooms.  It is a perfect combination.  It seems like years since I cooked any poncy French food.  Now a days I tend to try and steer clear of all that butter and cream and I don't often attempt restaurant cooking at home, even though I do sometimes miss all the technique; the reductions, the butchery, the sauces and the stocks.  So it was Mother's Day. There was no way we were going out for lunch so instead as a treat, I cooked Chicken with Morels for the family.  It took about half an hour, was super easy and was better than anything you will get in most restaurants, albeit (did you know that was one word!), maybe not one with stars. My treat was no washing-up.

Chicken with Morels and Sherry
Adapted from Raymond Blanc.   I like to serve this with mashed potato.

Serves 4
Planning ahead: the dried morels need to be soaked for at least a couple of hours. You can prepare the chicken half an hour in advance and warm it through in the morel sauce to serve.

For the chicken:
1 tbsp Unsalted butter
4 Chicken breasts, free range/organic, skin off (180g each)
1 tbsp butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g Dried morels soaked in 250ml of water for at least 2 hours
250g Button mushrooms, sliced
120ml Sherry (I used Marsala)
400ml Double cream

For the leeks:

200g Water, boiling
Large pinch of Sea salt
2 Leeks, medium size, outer leaves removed, washed and cut into 2cm pieces
1 tbsp Unsalted butter

To prepare the morels - drain the morels, reserving the soaking liquid, and squeeze to extract as much of the liquor as possible. Pass the reserved liquid through a muslin-lined sieve to remove any sand or grit and save.

To cook the chicken - season the breasts with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it is foaming.
Now is the time to add the chicken breasts and colour lightly for 3 minutes on each side. The skin should be golden brown and crisp. Remove from the pan and reserve. In the fat remaining in the frying pan, fry the button mushrooms for five minutes, or so and then add the soaked morels. Fry for a few more minutes before adding the sherry. Boil for a few minutes and then add the reserved morel liquid and a pinch of salt. Reduce down until you have a few tablespoons of liquid.  Next add the cream and bring to the boil. Check seasoning.  Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper and more salt if necessary.  Place the chicken breasts back in the pan, skin side up, making sure the cream sauce comes up to the level of the skin. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until they are just cooked through. Do not over-cook or the chicken will be dry.

To cook the leeks - while the chicken is cooking, put the leeks into a saucepan, pour on the boiling water and add the salt and butter. Cover and cook at a full boil for 5–10 minutes until tender.

To finish the dish - Using a slotted spoon, lift out the chicken breasts and place in a warm dish; keep warm. Boil the sauce rapidly to reduce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Place the chicken breasts back in the sauce to reheat for 2 minutes. Lift the leeks from their liquid and arrange on warmed plates. Sit the chicken breasts on top and pour the morel sauce over and around. 

Variations: Morels are quite hard to get hold of and very expensive.  You can buy them on-line or you could use dried Porcini / Ceps instead.

I entered this recipe to Spring a Leek Recipe Competition which is being hosted this month by Secret Garden Club.


  1. your post really brought a big smile to my face and the food looks lovely. Does anybody really pay £40 for a chicken, I struggle to pay over £5 :-)

  2. Greap recipe & can completely relate to your first paragraph! Your catering menu sounds excellent too :-)

  3. Beautiful chicken dish. Home cooked meal is always the best...healthier and much cheaper. I seldom go out and eat. Firstly I don't get what I want most of the time and secondly it's way too expensive. Just not worth my money spent. Let's just have fun cooking at home. Spending on your kids is an investment :D


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