Chicken á la Crème or Poulet á la Crème, as Jacques calls it, is the first recipe I’ve tried from my wonderful new Jacques Pepin Cookbook.
It is beyond delicious!
My friend Cody gave me this cookbook for my birthday back in September and I’ve been ogling the recipes, beautiful photos, and Pepin’s own illustrations waiting for a day off to shop and cook.
As you can see, Henry (or perhaps for this post we should call him Henri) has decided that he likes Jacques just as much as I do.
He gave the new cookbook quite the full cheek rubbing treatment.
The interesting thing about the recipe for Chicken á la Crème, is that even though it tastes rich and luxurious, it does not take special ingredients or very long to prepare.
In fact, this recipe should take just about 45 minutes start to finish.
Here’s what you need:
Chicken, Mushrooms, White Wine, Heavy Cream, Butter, Flour (GF is fine), Fresh Tarragon, Salt & Pepper.
In the preface to this recipe, Jacque mentions that his mother used to prepare this dish with a whole cut up chicken and that is what I have here. I’ve ditched the back and wings into my freezer bag for making stock so I have 2 breast halves, 2 thighs, and 2 legs.
The recipe in the book uses 6 chicken thighs so you can see that you have some options to use the chicken that you prefer, have on hand, or happen to see on sale.
You could probably even use the good old boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I have a hard time imagining anything not being delicious in this sauce.
I feel VINDICATED that in most of his recipes, Jacques skins his chicken pieces! Ha! Those of you who give me grief about my “naked” chicken, and you know who you are, take heed!
The only other prep work is to slice 8 ounces of mushrooms. Like Jacques (and my mother), I rinse my mushrooms and remove the stems. More vindication!
I have baby bella or crimini mushrooms but plain white, button mushrooms are also fine.
While you’re chopping, finely chop 1-2 Tablespoons of fresh tarragon leaves and set it aside for a garnish. This is optional, but as you’ll hear later, HIGHLY recommended.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat.
When the butter gets foamy but not browned, add the skinless chicken pieces and brown on both sides.
Mine browned for about 3 minutes on the first, more meaty side, and about 1-2 minutes on the second side.
Don’t worry that the chicken is still quite raw inside, it will continue to cook in the sauce.
Remove the chicken from the pan and add the sliced mushrooms.
If your pan is a little bit dry, you can add 1 more Tablespoon of butter to get the mushrooms going.
Cook the mushrooms for 1-2 minutes then sprinkle 1½ Tablespoons of flour in the pan. (Gluten Free flour works fine.)
Stir the flour into the mushrooms to make a roux or thickener then add ½ cup dry white wine and ½ cup water.
Use your wooden spoon to gently scrape up all those tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Turn the heat down to low as soon as the sauce starts to thicken.
I doubled the water from the original recipe because the sauce was getting super thick.
Put the chicken pieces back into the sauce and be sure that the sauce is bubbling slowly and gently on low heat.
Season lightly with salt & pepper.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
Check in about half way through the cooking time to be sure the sauce is not too thick and the chicken is not sticking.
If you feel the need, you can add an extra glug of wine (1-2 Tablespoons but who’s counting) to help keep the sauce saucy.
I also turned the chicken over in the pan to be sure that the meaty parts were getting their share of time in the sauce.
The chicken will be cooked through when the meat is firm and slightly pulling away from the bones.
An instant read thermometer is your best tool to ensure properly cooked meats. 165° is the proper temp for chicken so when you get to about 160° you’re close enough to add the cream.
Stir in ½ cup of heavy cream and once again scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.
Bring the sauce back up to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 1-2 minutes.
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings of salt & pepper.
I served my Chicken á la Crème on a bed of wild rice pilaf although regular rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes would also be good options.
One final, very French touch that I think makes the dish, is to sprinkle finely chopped fresh tarragon over the top of each serving.
Even if you have to buy tarragon specifically for this dish, I implore you not to skip this step. It really wakes up the buttery, creamy flavors of the sauce and takes this dish totally over the top.
A very traditional French dish, Chicken á la Crème is so delicous that you could serve it to guests for holidays or special occasions and yet it’s easy enough to make on a Monday night.
I gobbled up the leftovers for lunch today.
With Thanksgiving coming right up, Chicken á la Crème would make a great alternative to turkey for those not feeding a crowd or with limited oven/kitchen space.
Here’s the recipe: Adapted from Jacques Pepin’s Heart & Soul in the Kitchen