When I was in cooking school my best class by far was soups and sauces, I think it’s still the area where I am the most comfortable. I remember the Chef (teacher) telling us all to make mushroom soup and I thought ugh… I hate mushroom soup. The thought of grey rubbery little snail like chunks in a thick, gluey soup was so gross to me. Until that day I had only had condensed canned mushroom soup (thanks mom).
Little did I know that my mind was about to be blown when he Chef demonstrated a proper mushroom soup full of gorgeous mushrooms that had been caramelized in butter until they were tender and rich and golden little nuggets of joy. He then he flamed them with sherry which was incredibly impressive and smelled like heaven. To this day the smell of caramelized mushrooms and sherry brings me back to that day, seriously someone should make a perfume…just saying.
A soup and a sauce is very much the same which is why they were part of the same class. The important part of building a soup or sauce is layering flavors, I’m sure you’ve heard this term and have no idea what it means but basically it means that as you cook an ingredient, season that specific ingredient and cook it to a doneness that creates flavor. For example, if I start a recipe with onions and I want to bring out their flavor I will caramelize the onions and season them before I add the next ingredient, then I build on it with the next addition and so on and so fourth. I don’t wait until the end and I don’t pile all the ingredients in at once but rather build it as I go.
This recipe is a great meal to make for a group, it can be done with chicken breasts or thighs, it can also be done with the chicken skin on, just be sure to crisp it up on the grill first. I like to cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise because it stretches the meal to feed more people for less money and the chicken finishes cooking quickly in the sauce.
Grilled Chicken with Port Mushroom & Leek Gravy
Serves 5-6 people
4 Chicken Breasts, boneless skinless
1 Tbsp Salted Butter
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Leek, cleaned and chopped
1 Tsp Kosher Salt
a3 cups Mushroom, white or cremini, cleaned and cut into quarters
1/3 cup sherry, port or marsala wine
2 Tbsp All purpose flour
900ml Chicken Stock
1/2 Tbsp Better than Bouillon Beef
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tsp. Herbs du Provence
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Chopped Flatleaf Parsley
In a large skillet, melt butter and heat oil, add chopped leek and cook over medium heat until translucent, approx 5 minutes, season with salt.
Once leeks are cooked, add mushrooms and turn heat to medium/high to dehydrate and caramelize the mushrooms. The mushrooms will go from grey to golden brown, allow time for the water to evaporate and go through these stages.
A “fond” will form on the bottom of the pan, this is the dark stuck on stuff that home cooks often worry is an error but is actually flavor forming and is gorgeous! Once you see that you have achieved a caramelization on the mushrooms indicated by golden crusting on the spots that are against the heat, you want to “deglaze” with the wine (port, sherry, marasala). Deglazing refers to unsticking the stuck on stuff on the pan. pour in the wine and scrape the stuck on stuff which will come off very easily now. Turn the heat to medium/low.
Most of the wine will evaporate but the flavour will remain, at this time you want to add your flour, it will look like a mistake and see strange but trust me, this is the thickener for your sauce. Cook the flour for about two minutes while stirring continuously. You will be creating another “fond” on the bottom of the pan, that’s ok, more flavor (layering).
Add your herbs du provence, garlic and your bouillon and stir. Add your chicken stock while continuing to stir and turn the heat to medium. Stir continuously until thickened. The sauce will not be super thick, this is not KFC gravy, it’s a silky rich gravy that should be poured over polenta or potatoes to make a sumptuous dinner. Turn the heat off once the sauce begins to simmer. In the meantime, grill your chicken (seasoned with salt and pepper) just to get the grill marks. Add the chicken to the sauce and then finish the chicken simmering in the sauce. The
And there you go… a gorgeous dish which just needs a final sprinkling of fresh parsley right before service. This dish can be made in advance and heated 15 minutes before you plan to serve it. Your guests will think you’re a superstar when you use words like “fond”, “deglaze”, “herbs du provence” and “port”. I think you’ll find that it’s actually a very achievable dish that can be made easily for family suppers too. Enjoy!
Please see my recipe for Polenta as well, it goes so well with this dish.