Chicken with Mushrooms, Sherry and Cream

Goodness, we eat a lot of chicken. Once a week, at least. Twice if you count leftovers.

But it’s just so easy, in so many ways – it’s simple to cook, everyone wants to eat it, it’s relatively cheap, it saves well, it goes with everything. The list goes on. Also, I simply enjoy cooking it – it begins pallid, limp and unpromising and emerges sizzling and irresistible. I’ve always been a sucker for a Miraculous Transformation.

This dinner suits the weather; it’s creamy, earthy, rich, satisfying and warms you to the bones. We used chicken legs here, one each and divided into two with the help of a heavy knife, but you should use what you like – I’d recommend chicken on the bone, maybe thighs or drumsticks, because it stays effortlessly moist, but if you’d rather use breasts, go ahead and just keep a close eye on them for done-ness. If I were to make a hard-and-fast rule, I’d say that your chicken pieces must be skin-on – It would be perfectly tasty without, but you’d really be making something a little different.

The pairing of Sherry and chicken is something that never gets old for me. They just seem to marry so well. If you don’t have any in though, or would rather use something else, go ahead – I’ve made variations on this recipe using tawny port, white wine, dry cider and sake, all of which had their own charms. And, of course, if you can’t use alcohol, you can always use the equivalent amount of stock.

We ate this with brown rice, which provided an earthy, chewy foil to the rich sauce, but you wouldn’t go far wrong here with some potatoes – mashed preferably – any other grains, or even a hearty salad.

To feed four people, you will need –

– 4 skin-on chicken legs, divided into drumsticks and thighs

– A generous slice of butter

– A whole head of garlic, divided into cloves, lightly crushed, skins removed

– 2-3 portobello mushrooms, or the equivalent mass of your choice of mushroom, in half-centimetre slices

– 150ml Sherry

– 150ml whipping cream, double cream, heavy cream, or whatever they call it where you come from

– a small bunch of parsley, tough stalks removed

Preheat your oven to 200°C/180°C fan.

Put a deep, heavy bottomed, oven-safe pan large enough to accommodate the chicken in a single layer on a fairly high heat and add your butter til it bubbles and begins to turn brown.

Put the chicken pieces into the pan skin-side down and brown the skin, seasoning the underside generously with salt and pepper. I’d recommend keeping the heat pretty high and developing some serious colour at this stage a deep, dark brown. When the skin side is done, turn them over and season that side too. Take your time with it, and remove any pieces that get to the finish-line first.

Remove the chicken and set aside, then lower the heat to medium. Put the lightly crushed garlic cloves in the pan and brown them on both sides – again, a deep satisfying colour is the aim. Throw in the sliced mushrooms and raise the heat back to high. Cook them for a few minuses giving them the odd stir, letting any water they release evaporate and allowing them to them take on a little colour.

Keeping the heat high, pour in the Sherry to deglaze, giving the bottom of the pan a good scraping with a spatula or wooden spoon to loosen any delicious crispy caramels from its surface.

Pour in the cream, stir, bring it just to a simmer, add the chicken pieces skin-side up, give the whole pan a shake, then put it in your preheated oven, uncovered, for half an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through*.

Remove the pan from the oven, loosen the sauce with a small amount of water if it seems overly thick, check the seasoning and let it sit for a couple of minutes. As it rests, roughly shred your parsley.

Immediately before serving, sprinkle over the parsley, give the pan one final, vigorous shake, then bring the lot to the table, letting everyone choose their favourite pieces, before spooning over some sauce and mushrooms.

And that’s it – a really simple single pan of food that feels more than the sum of its parts in the deliciousness of the results.

*for those fortunate enough to have a quick-read thermometer, you’re aiming for 72°C at the thickest point for absolute perfection. Otherwise, you want the juices to run clear when pierced with a knife or skewer. To be honest, this is all pretty academic unless you’re cooking using breast cuts, which are less forgiving of more general timings. If you’re using thighs, they should be nicely cooked through after half an hour unless your oven behaves very differently than mine.

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