Published November 1, 2010.
This classic French dish of poached chicken in cream sauce would have a lot going for it, if we could streamline the recipe and punch up the flavors.
Traditional versions of this dish are a bit bland for modern tastes, and many versions feel fussy and time-consuming.
We wanted a streamlined technique that would give the dish weeknight potential, and a brighter, more complex sauce.
First up, the thick bone-in chicken parts would have to go. Instead, we used the busy cook’s favorite timesaver: boneless, skinless breasts and thighs. These thinner pieces of meat not only fit nicely into our 12-inch skillet, but they were mostly cooked through after the initial sear.
We found two ways to add back richness that we’d lost when we opted for boneless, skinless chicken pieces. First, we browned the meat in a combination of butter and oil. Next, we thoroughly browned vegetables until they developed their own fond. We swapped the traditional pearl onions for a regular chopped onion, which would provide more surface area for browning and caramelization, and we upped the amount of glutamate-rich mushrooms to boost the meaty flavor of the dish. Sautéing these ingredients with a splash of white wine coated the pan with a layer of dark, browned bits. Just before deglazing with chicken broth, we stirred in a bit of minced garlic and a tablespoon of flour to thicken the sauce. Finally, we slid the chicken back into the skillet to finish cooking. After several minutes, the breast meat was up to temperature and the poaching liquid had reduced to a savory gravy.
The final step was to finish the sauce with dairy. We settled on sour cream, which added body and pleasant tang. To create a satiny smooth consistency, we tried a technique popular in many early fricassee recipes: whisking an egg yolk into the sauce. Yolks contain a powerful emulsifier that keeps fat (in this case from the sour cream) suspended in water. A single yolk whisked into the sour cream before incorporating the mixture into the thickened broth was all it took to make our sauce incredibly silky. All that was left was to add a squirt of lemon juice, grated nutmeg, and minced tarragon to lend a little more complexity.list of recipes