2 July 2012

Marco Pierre White's Chicken Chasseur ... oh dear.

My version - doesn't look too bad ..

I - honest, swear to god, hand on heart, scout's honour, the lot - didn't do anything other than follow Marco Pierre White's recipe faithfully.

So why, then, did my Chicken Chasseur turn out to be such a disappointment?

Let's start with the recipe (for once), so that you can see what I had to deal with :


Ingredients :
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 tbsp plain flour, for coating
  • 1 small chicken jointed into 8 pieces or 8 chicken thigh portions (skin on or off as preferred)
  • 2 shallots, very finely chopped (100g)
  • 50ml brandy, optional
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1 Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
  • 600ml tomato juice (with an optional touch of gravy browning added in for extra colour if desired)
  • 250g button mushrooms, peeled and finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 2 tbsps chopped parsley
  • 2 tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded, finely diced.
Method :

1.    Gently heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. You want the oil to be hot but not so hot that it scorches the floured chicken.
2.    Spread a layer of flour on a plate or a tray. Flour the chicken pieces, coating them in the flour evenly and thoroughly and shaking off the excess.
3.    Add the floured chicken pieces to the hot olive oil, skin side down. Fry the chicken without moving the pieces until golden-brown underneath, around 8-10 minutes; turn over the chicken and fry until browned on the other side.
4.    Add the finely chopped shallot to the chicken pieces in the frying pan, placing them under the chicken so that the shallot cooks.
5.    If using brandy, pour it in around the edge of the pan so that it runs underneath the chicken pieces. Cook for 2-3 minutes to cook off the alcohol.
6.    Then add in the wine, again pouring it in round the sides of the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes so that the alcohol from the wine cooks off and its acidity is reduced.
7.    Now add in the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and the tomato juice. Shake the pan to gently work it in, turning the chicken pieces to coat them in the liquid.
8.    Slowly bring to the boil, dissolving the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot. Add the tarragon to the chicken and simmer for 5 minutes.
9.    While the chicken is simmering, heat remaining olive oil, in a separate frying pan.
10.    Add in the sliced mushrooms and fry them for 3-5 minutes. Add in the parsley, shaking the pan to mix it in well. Add in the diced tomato, shaking to mix in well.
11.    Spoon the mushroom mixture over the chicken pieces, garnish with parsley sprigs and serve at once.

Marco's version - looks totally different!
Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  Well, it certainly wasn't difficult - apart from jointing the chicken that is, but I'll talk about that later - once you've done all your preparations (which took me an hour!).

First up, I'll say that I did tinker with the given recipe slightly in that I fried off the mushrooms and tomato first, then retained them under the grill to keep warm whilst I fried the chicken and made the sauce.   Well, it seemed daft to lose that mushroom flavour by using a separate pan!

The end result, both hubby and I felt, was nothing like the traditional recipe from France being completely washed out by the final addition of the fresh tomato, which seemed to gang up with the tomato juice involved in the sauce.  All traces of brandy and wine (which had been deliciously apparent right up until the inclusion of the mushrooms and tomato) were totally obliterated - as was the flavour of the mushrooms!  The overwhelming flavour wound up as being simply tomato.  Looking at Marco's version above, it doesn't look like it has had 600ml of tomato juice involved in the sauce at all - it looks rather more like as though it's had more stock and gravy browning!

Now the whole point of this exercise - the making of the Chicken Chasseur - was to spotlight how delicious Knorr's Stock Pots are, instead of making your own stock.  However, where was the stock in the recipe?  I know that one of the points of Knorr's Stock Pots is that you can either dilute the contents of the pot to make stock, or just use it direct in a dish to flavour the gravy or sauce - as in this case.

The trouble, it seems to me, is that the tomato juice was used in such quantity (I even didn't use as much as is stated in the recipe - just 400ml instead of 600ml) that the sauce didn't taste an awful lot different after the addition of the stock pot, than before it.  The tomato juice was very definitely the dominant flavour, albeit that you could still taste the brandy and the lovely wine at this stage.

Why, oh why, didn't I just make my own version of a Chicken Chasseur?  You may well ask.  I suppose, I was being what I thought was true to the spirit of the challenge in following the given recipe.  You live and learn.

The ingredients for the Chicken Chasseur had come from Knorr and been supplied by Foreman & Field - who are famous in bloggerland for providing some real quality goods.  Our Seasonal Box was no different, in that the ingredients were all top notch - and don't think that I'm being ungrateful, I'm not!  I am very grateful to be given the opportunity of cooking with such lovely things, but it makes it all the more disappointing when your recipe doesn't work out how you thought it might.

Take the chicken, for instance.  It came from the Rhug Estate and if you take a look at their website, you'll see that they purport to give their chickens a lovely life, which winds up with a tender and flavoursome bird.  Well maybe we've eaten a lower grade of chicken for too long, but hubby's description of the chicken was "a tough old bird", as his breast portion left something to be desired in the tenderness department.  Incidentally - and interestingly, to buy direct from Rhug the chickens cost £12.  From Foreman & Field, they suddenly shoot up to £19.95.  I refer you all back to my comments on the British Rose Veal posts, about buying direct from the farm!  (Aside from all that - £20 for a chicken?  OMG!).

I'm afraid I don't really know how my thigh portion tasted, as it was still bloody even after frying, then cooking in both brandy and wine, together with simmering in sauce for a good half an hour.  I even started it before the breast portions, with its longer cooking time in mind!  So I had a dinner of tomato sauce with tasteless mushrooms over new potatoes, carrots and tenderstem broccoli.  ~sigh~

It was the first time I'd broken a whole chicken down into individual portions.  However, I'd watched enough people do it and even had a pull-out magazine "how to" to hand.  Even with all that help, it took me FOR EVER to break that chicken down into portions.  It has to be that the bones on this free range organic chicken were so much stronger than "normal" chickens (i.e. free range, from the butcher), because my feeble grip was having significant trouble getting my brand new and sharp as anything poultry shears through it.  I was determined not to call for help though, as I knew hubby really dislikes anything remotely yukky - and dismembering a chicken could quite conceivably be termed "yukky".  That chicken fought back.  Yes, alright, passively - but it fought back.

I hadn't really considered the waste that is involved with breaking into portions, either.  I could have cried if I'd have stopped long enough to think about what I was throwing away and how it could have been put to making a chicken soup or suchlike.  I considered putting it all in the freezer until another day, but as we've just a tiny freezer that is absolutely bursting at the seams at the moment, it just couldn't be done.  It fair broke my heart to throw that carcass and all the rubble away.

I did manage to put the other leg portion and the wings into the freezer for another day, though.  We had a tiny corner left that I wedged them into.  I also have a drumstick in some of the tomato sauce in the fridge, for lunch tomorrow.  (Today's lunch is taken up with a Tenderstem in Ten challenge!).

Still, when I think how (potentially) nice that chicken would have been if we'd have roasted it .... 

The wine that was supplied for the cooking deserves a word or two, as it was really lovely.  Now, when I say "really lovely", you need to sit up and pay attention - not because I'm a great wine buff, but because I'm anything but and normal everyday wines leave me fairly cold.  Every now and then, though, I find one that I really like - so enter the Biddenden Wines' Ortega 2011.  Looking at their website, it is described as "Winner of  "Best Kent Wine" at the Taste of Kent awards 2012. A medium full fruit wine, well balanced with a distinctive fragrance and good acidity. Serve slightly chilled as an aperitif or with food.  Silver Medal UKVA Awards 2012; Bronze Medal SEVA Awards 2012".  Well, I can understand why!

The wine has a very pale colour which leads you to expect a delicate flavour - not the big fruity flavours that burst upon your tongue, ricocheting back and forth across your palate, leaving shooting stars and sparklers in their wake.  Then comes the warmth as the back of your throat radiates a deliciously comforting glow in the aftermath.  This is a wine that makes you purse your lips and nod appreciatively in the way of wine buffs everywhere.

So it was a terrible shame that it all got obliterated by the addition of that last dose of tomato.  ~sigh~

I tried.  I really, really tried.


  1. Sounds like the recipe was the issue. I have never jointed a chicken and am not about to start.

    Have a great day

    1. Jointing up a chicken is rapidly becoming the only way to afford to buy chicken here. :( I'm sort of hoping that the next one won't be as tricky as this one was. lol

  2. What a shame! The recipe is the problem; really, really decent chicken, which has been reared a fair bit older which the Rhug birds are, needs low and slow - the recipe is a bit careless and looks like it was designed for a more commercial bird. You're too right about the bones too. Commercial chickens put down protein really fast - before the skeleton has chance to properly develop - due to the hybrid breed, the way they are fed and how they are housed. Here's a nice piece from last week's Indy http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/pecking-order-how-to-get-a-better-breed-of-bird-7897101.html

    A huge shame as the base ingredient -the bird - would have been fantastic cooked at a lower temperature. And I agree with you on the wine - the Ortega is super lush :-)

    Forman's are good people; hugely dedicated to providing a big mix of the best of British producers (which aint a cheap thing to do - the logistics are crackers) so again - shame about the recipe!

    1. Thanks for that, I was seriously starting to wonder if it was me! No, your comments agree with Mr Tom Hux, who commented that the recipe "smacked of Knorr's Development Kitchen". I consider the loss of the Rhug bird to be something of a tragedy and very definitely a lost opportunity. :( As Sam from the Bournemouth Echo said, "that'll teach me" - and it will, I'll definitely do my own recipe next time (if there is one!). lol

  3. I would never use something like a Knorr stock cube, or any other kind of ready made stock cube, whoever had been paid a fortune to recommend it. Make your own stock, its easy, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and then just use the cubes as you need them. I would never use something like gravy browning either. Does Marco PW really have these in his recipe ? This man is supposed to be one of the top chefs in the land, he has plainly let his standards slip in his pursuit of the filthy lucre.

    1. Each to their own, MrMorris. Personally, I don't have unlimited freezer space in which to keep beef, chicken, lamb, veal, pork, vegetable and fish stock - because they're what I use and so they are what I'd require to have on hand. As we only have a small freezer with no space to put another (believe me, we've tried!) I go for the next best thing - which is a good quality stock cube, or stock pot, or powder. I find the flavour of Knorr's stock cubes to be true and their low salt stock cubes very useful. Essential Cuisine is another invaluable source of stock - but in this case, stock powder.

      As for whether Marco uses Knorr stock pots in his restaurants, I sincerely doubt it. However, he might use them at home!


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