Chicken with wild mushrooms
If you cook from books and magazines, you know that a really great recipe is a rare find.
They all look so good, but honestly, you’d swear some were created for looks alone. (Watermelon radishes, anyone?) Here’s that rarest of finds: a simple, seasonal recipe that’s much more than the sum of its parts, and that you’ll be cooking from memory in no time at all.
October 12, 2015 | Text David Rollins Photography Rob Lee
There’s a perfection to a truly great recipe that goes far beyond flavour. This perfection emerges from its obvious proportions, its simple structure, and natural gestures. It just feels right. It tastes better than it really should, and is nourishing in a way that can’t be explained by a dietitian. This is what we’ve always felt about the deceptively simple ‘Chicken with morels’ by Québec chef Ricardo Larrivée.
While cooking it for this story, I realized that although we’ve probably made it 20 times, we’ve never served it to anyone but ourselves. We’ve never even considered sharing. It’s that good.
What’s so perfect? First of all, 100 points for seasonality. It’s one of the simplest and most delicious things to do with wild mushrooms, which are at their most abundant and affordable right now.
The dish is warming, savoury, hearty, and aromatic. Its flavour perfectly corresponds to the character of the season. This is a dish that tastes exactly like fall.
This is also the recipe that taught me one of the most valuable of kitchen skills: how to cut up a whole chicken. Jacques Pépin makes it look like child’s play in this video demonstration from Food and Wine (it’s the second one on the page – prepping chicken for a stew), but it does take some practice.
It makes me feel smart and thrifty to admire the eight neat pieces I’ve cut. It’s much less expensive to buy a whole chicken, and nothing is wasted. Our dog Leo gets the trimmings and the ‘back’ that’s left over is frozen and later turned into stock.
“There’s a perfection to a truly great recipe that goes far beyond flavour. It just feels right.”
Of all the ingredients capable of creating a sense of deep connection to nature, wild mushrooms take the cake.
The flavour they lend to cooking is like the colour fall lends to trees.
We’ve made a few very minor changes to the original recipe. The first is to leave the skin on the bird. We are thankful for chicken fat and think it’s just what a body needs right now. (If you’ve got a really fatty bird that renders so much fat it starts to deep fry, just drain some out.) The second thing we sometimes do is use different mushrooms. Like maybe we’ll use a mix of dried mushrooms instead of just morels and chanterelles. (In Québec the ubiquitous ‘mélange forestière’ is usually pretty great. I like the colour that lobster mushrooms add.) Or we’ll stumble across perfect fresh wild mushrooms and do a mix of those.
“We are thankful for chicken fat and think it’s just what a body needs right now.”
Also, we often use a capon instead of a chicken. A capon is a rooster that’s been castrated. It has a slightly richer flavour than chicken, without being gamey. Capon is also much plumper, juicier, and more tender than chicken. It’s quite a treat, if you can find it. Because it’s usually larger than a chicken, each breast half gets cut into two pieces, making 10 pieces total instead of just 8. Finally, we can’t resist throwing in a chiffonade of sage at the very last moment. Its resinous character completes the forest concept, giving this darkly flavoured dish a layer of soft green.
Chicken with wild mushrooms
Note: If you’re using fresh instead of dried, plan for about 3 cups of roughly chopped fresh mushrooms. Serve with green beans and baked potatoes. The ‘burnt’ skins of over-baked sweet potatoes make a particularly good flavour match.
- 1 – 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1 oz. dried morels
- 1 oz. dried chanterelles (alternatively, use 3 cups of fresh wild mushrooms)
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 2 tbsp. water
- 1 chicken, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- ¼ c whisky or Bourbon
- ½ c heavy cream
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp. finely sliced sage leaves
In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the dried mushrooms. Let rehydrate for about 30 minutes. (If using fresh mushrooms, skip this step.)
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown the chicken in the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. (If using fresh mushrooms, add them and sauté until all of their moisture has been released.)
Deglaze with the whisky. Add the stock and the mushroom mixture, cream and mustard. Bring to a boil while stirring. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 45 minutes.
Turn the chicken pieces and continue cooking, uncovered, until the chicken is done, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the sliced sage, adjust the seasoning as necessary and serve immediately.