8 March 2014

Slow Cooker Mushroom & Tarragon Chicken

I have discovered that, whilst all these replacements for potato are all very well, I do - and son & heir agrees with me - begin to get a terrible hankering for something potato.  So, as I'd been doing so well with the last seven or eight meals being successful, I thought I'd risk throwing a potato meal into the mix.

Now I didn't chance my arm too far - I mean, had I have dished up a frittata with dauphinoise and chips, it might have been three potatoes too many.  No, I went for a relatively safe bet, which was mash.  Good old, reliable, yummy, comfort food for the soul, mashed potato.

I was, mind you, supposed to have cooked this on the previous day.  However, when my tongue (I know, don't ask me, I haven't a clue) decided to go completely mad (bizarre swellings, weird colours) following a pastrami sandwich and a nectarine, it kind of put me off eating a bit.  So we all fended for ourselves that night (hurrah for tins of soup!) and the chicken got moved on to the following night.

Owing to the fact that we were attending a reading at son & heir's school that afternoon, ("a reading" being where the students were reading from work they had done at that day's Writer's Workshop - which turned out to be really very good indeed), I decided to break out the slow cooker.  Well, it saved me from stressing about getting the chicken cooked in time without paying for it by way of pain and discomfort later.  This is one of the very good reasons why I love my slow cooker.

I put the chicken in to cook at around 12.30pm and fished it back out to eat at around 6pm - and it was perfect.  Still succulent, not dried out at all and as tasty as a tasty thing.  The Marsala wine had contributed lots by way of flavour and aroma, and the mushrooms gave that savoury edge that took the sweetness of the wine down a notch or two.

I used my favourite Essential Cuisine powdered chicken stock in the sauce, so beware if you are using a stock cube and either use a low salt one, or don't include salt at all when you are seasoning the chicken.  Using a combination of seasoning, a salty stock cube and fairly salty gravy granules could be disastrous when all are combined!  Get yourself some Essential Cuisine stock - it's not expensive (£3.95 for enough to make 6 litres) low salt and tastes fabulous, so you never have to worry about salt levels.

Chicken loves Marsala, however the use of Marsala wine is not cast in stone.  A sweet sherry would do just as good a job - or a dessert wine, if you've got one lurking in the fridge.  As long as it's not too dry, it will do the job perfectly.

The mushrooms seem to soak up the sweet wine and become flavour bombs, so make sure not to leave any in the slow cooker when you serve up!  It would be such a shame to lose all that intense flavour.

I used dried tarragon, basically because I find that the small expense of buying a bunch of fresh tarragon just isn't worth it to use a tablespoonful and have the remainder die off in the fridge.  Dried does a perfectly good job - just don't overdo it!  By the time the mix has spent a few hours chuckling in the slow cooker, you won't know the difference between dried and fresh anyway.

A quick word about the use of gravy granules.  Now I don't see any reason to be embarrassed or shady about using them - particularly the really good ones like the Bisto Best ones.  They are a complete boon for thickening gravies and sauces, they can add a bit of oomph to an otherwise fairly uninteresting gravy and you can get so many different flavours of them now, that there is no longer any reason to have to use chicken for pork, or beef for lamb.  However, if you're interested in keeping your meals pure, then by all means go for the use of a little flour when you fry off the chicken, or introduce a cornflour slurry at gravy thickening time.  It all works.

If you have time on your hands, you can always pop the ingredients into a casserole dish and cook it in the oven.  I'd say you'd need a 180degC/350 degF/gas 4 - or moderate - oven, for probably around an hour and a half, or maybe slightly longer depending on the size of your chicken breasts.  You could cut each breast into three pieces, which would speed up the process a little.  However, I must stress that I've not tried this recipe this way - so you'd be trailblazing.

Hubby really enjoyed his meal, commenting that it was "really delicious".  Fine praise indeed!  Son and heir also approved, leaving a clean plate behind him.  I gave the entire meal a big thumb's up for satisfaction, flavour and comfort - the perfect meal for a bit of a tiring day.  So, are you feeling like you need a "meat and two veg with mash" meal?  If so, then this is the one for you.


Ingredients :

3 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
sea salt & ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 tsp dried tarragon
6-7 chestnut mushrooms, sliced thinly
100ml sweet Marsala wine
400ml chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped finely
1-2 tbsp Bisto Best gravy granules.

Method :

1.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken.  Season the side that is uppermost and fry until golden.  Turn the chicken, season lightly again and fry until golden.  Remove to the slow cooker and turn the cooker on to Low.

2.  Add the onions to the frying pan and gently cook until softened but not coloured.

3.  Add the garlic and tarragon and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.

4.  Add the mushrooms and increase the heat slightly.  Cook until slightly softened.

5.  Add the Marsala and allow it to bubble and reduce slightly.

6.  Add the chicken stock and stir through, then add the parsley.

7.  Add the vegetables and sauce to the slow cooker, replace the lid and cook for 5-6 hours on Low.

8.  Once your vegetable accompaniments are cooking, remove the slow cooker lid and move the chicken breasts to one side.  Sprinkle the gravy granules evenly into the sauce and stir through until thickened.  Replace the lid until you are ready to serve.

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