It sounds so simple that it is hard to believe it could be so tasty. However, never underestimate the power of a tablespoonful of vinegar to the flavour of a dish!
I was looking for a simple, no frills, mid week chicken dish that could be served with a couple of different vegetables, to balance up the low veggie dishes that were already on the menu plan. As ever, when feeling a lack of inspiration, I turned to my recipe bible - www.bbcgoodfood.com. Flicking through the dozens of recipes, I recognised one that I'd liked on a previous occasion but hadn't got around to cooking yet - the chicken with mushrooms. For all that the name sounds singularly uninspiring, the photograph alongside looked really quite enticing. Nice golden fillets of chicken with mushrooms and green peas in a light and not creamy, sauce. It looked perfect for the job.
I had to make some alterations to the original recipe though, as I wasn't going to pay for pancetta (so I used Asda's misshapes smoked bacon for cooking), nor a bottle of white wine vinegar that I might not use again for months (so I used sherry vinegar, which I had already got).
I also didn't bother with dirtying a bowl by dredging the chicken with flour (which would probably have stuck to the pan and burned anyway) and solved the problem of a too-thin sauce by adding just two teaspoonfuls of Bisto Best roast chicken gravy granules. All three of these changes worked perfectly, so hence the recipe appears in its altered form in this blog. If I didn't write down what I did, I just know I'd forget when it came to the next time! However, if you want to stick to the named ingredients in the original recipe, you go right ahead - it's fine by me.
The keys to this recipe's deliciousness are as follows :
a) the cooking of the chicken. You must make sure that your chicken gains a lovely golden hue before you add liquid. This is the real foundation of your dish's flavour.
b) the bacon. Don't be tempted to leave out the bacon. The flavour profile needs it's intense savouriness and saltiness - but be careful about the addition of sea salt, just a tiny pinch!
c) the vinegar. The addition of the vinegar gives a lovely tang of acidity to the sauce. Not as much as sweet and sour, but enough to give it a lift above a straight gravy.
d) the late addition of the fresh parsley. Don't be tempted to chuck it in early. The sauce needs the freshness of the just wilted parsley.
e) the reduction of the liquid in the sauce. Don't be tempted to hurry it along and serve before the sauce has had a chance to reduce by half to two thirds. It makes SUCH a difference to the intensity of the flavour! Taste the sauce as you go along and you will see what I mean.
This is one of those recipes that is as good a mid week family dinner as it is a relaxed dinner with friends. The flavour is so much more than its title!
CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOMS (serves 2)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 rashers thick cut smoked back bacon, diced
2 large eschalion shallots or 4-5 small shallots, chopped
150g button mushrooms, halved
2 chicken breasts, each cut in half lengthways to create 2 thinner fillets
freshly ground black pepper
250ml warm water, containing 1 low salt chicken stock cube
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tsp Bisto Best chicken gravy granules
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
50g frozen peas.
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, then add the bacon and shallots. Cook over a moderate heat until the shallots are softened, all the liquid has left the bacon and it has begun to turn golden.
Add the button mushrooms and continue to fry, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have begun to soften.
Remove the bacon, shallots & mushrooms from the pan using a slotted spoon and reserve to keep warm.
Increase the heat under the pan and add the chicken breast fillets and season with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Leave them undisturbed to gain a lovely golden colour, then flip them over, season and cook the other side in identical fashion.
Once both sides are deliciously golden, return the bacon, shallots & mushrooms to the pan.
Add the water, stock cube (broken into pieces) and vinegar and stir gently until everything is combined. Bring to a steady simmer and cook for a further 15 or so minutes, turning the chicken half way through.
Once the liquid has reduced by half, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly then add the gravy granules and stir quickly to prevent them clumping. Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened.
Add the fresh parsley and frozen peas and taste the sauce to check the seasoning. Add a little more if necessary. Bring back up to simmering point, turn the chicken once and cook until the peas are tender but have not lost their fresh green colour.
Serve with new potatoes and seasonal vegetables.