ofm top twenty: chicken with morels and sherry sauce

this raymond blanc recipe for chicken with morels has been published a few times and each time i’ve seen i’ve though i’d like to give it a try but have never got round to it, so it was nice to have the excuse of it being part of the ofm top twenty.

it’s often credited as a “maman blanc” recipe which perhaps explains its traditional french roots, which translate to a very rich, gently flavoured dish. so, how did i get on?

this is very quick and easy to pull together, providing you remember to soak the dried morels in advance. the ingredients are also quite simple to source, once you have tracked down the dried morels. i wasn’t sure what to serve it with but given the richness and the large piece of chicken it was filling enough on its own. however, if you are planning it as part of a bigger meal (which you might as is both easy to make and looks, i think, quite impressive), make sure any starter or pudding you choose is light as a feather!

the final verdict:

would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the ofm top twenty? no, i think i’d have kept putting it off – it’s rare that i actually want to make and eat a dish this rich.

would i try this recipe again in the future? yes, but only within a very particular context - the dish is everything you might expect from a classic french recipe, full of richness and delicious gentle flavours, and it was quite satisfying to realise i could make this kind of food, so if i wanted to repeat that kind of experience i would dig this recipe out again. more generally though, it’s not for me – i don’t find anything particularly interesting about these traditional flavours and it is very rich. 

raymond blanc's chicken with morels and sherry sauce (serves 4)

30g dried morels, soaked in 250ml water for at least 2 hours

4chicken breasts (180g each), skinned

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

15g unsalted butter

250g firm button mushrooms, washed quickly, patted dry and quartered

120ml dry sherry or jura wine (i used sherry)

400ml double cream

for the leeks:

2 medium leeks, trimmed, cut into 2cm pieces and washed

200ml boiling water

a pinch of sea salt

15g unsalted butter

plan ahead – the dried morels need to be soaked for at least a couple of hours. you can prepare the chicken half an hour in advance and warm it through in the morel sauce to serve.

to prepare the morels, drain them, reserving the soaking liquor, and squeeze to extract as much of the liquor as possible. rinse the morels, drain and squeeze dry. cut larger morels into smaller pieces; set aside. pass the reserved liquor through a muslin-lined sieve to remove any sand or grit and save 100ml.

to cook the chicken, season the breasts with salt and pepper. in a large frying pan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it is foaming. add the chicken breasts and colour lightly for 3 minutes on each side. remove from the pan and reserve.

in the fat remaining in the frying pan, soften the soaked morels and button mushrooms together, for 1-2 minutes. meanwhile, boil the sherry or wine in a small pan for 30 seconds. add the sherry or wine to the mushrooms with the reserved morel liquor and a pinch of salt. pour in the cream and bring to the boil.

place the chicken breasts back in the pan, making sure the sauce covers them. lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until they are just cooked through.

meanwhile, put the leeks in a pan, pour on the boiling water and add the salt and butter. cover and cook at a full boil for 5-10 minutes until tender.

using a slotted spoon, lift out the chicken breasts and place in a warm dish; keep warm. boil the sauce rapidly to reduce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. taste and adjust the seasoning. place the chicken breasts back in the sauce to reheat for 2 minutes.

lift the leeks from their liquor with a slotted spoon and arrange on warmed plates. sit the chicken breasts on top and pour the morel sauce over and around.