Monday, 11 August 2014

Chicken in a Sherry, Mushroom & Green Peppercorn Cream Sauce

Although many of my recipes and blog posts seem to involve desserts or baking, I also love experimenting with and cooking savoury dishes. Like most people I tend to cook food and recipes that are proven favourites with my family, but recently I made a conscious decision to start producing meals that are a little different and to be a little more adventurous in my flavour combinations.

Like many children, my three are a little fussy when it comes to trying new foods; but they are improving as they get older. Without a doubt their favourite meat has to be chicken and we would eat it regularly in our house. Their all-time favourite meal would have to be roast chicken with all the trimmings. When I appeared as a contestant on MasterChef Ireland earlier this year one of the invention challenges involved chicken. Rather than over-complicate things I decided that I would cook a roast chicken dinner inspired by my children’s favourite meal. Luckily the judges loved it! The roast chicken dinner that I cooked on the programme was prepared in a more ‘fine dining’ style than that which I would normally produce at home but the essential flavours were all there. If you want to see the recipe, click here

I was really pleased with the sherry braised chicken that I blogged about and gave the recipe for a few weeks back and decided that I wanted to do another dish that included sherry. However, this time, rather than heavily Spanish influenced flavours and treatment, I have opted for a dish that, I suppose, has more of a French feel as it includes a rich sauce of sherry, mushrooms, garlic and cream as well as some green peppercorns to give a little fiery heat when eaten.

I love dishes that have a bit of added heat in them. The most usual way of introducing spicy heat into recipes is to include chilli pepper, but I find that dishes that include chilli often need some added sweetening in order to create a dish that is balanced. I didn’t want this dish to include any added sweetening and was quite happy for a hint of sweetness to be provided by the sweated onions only. Green peppercorns give a warm spicy heat which I felt worked well with the creamy richness of the sherry based sauce. For the reasons that I have just given, make sure that you use a dry sherry such as a fino and not a sweet sherry.

This is a seriously tasty dish, which I served simply with some steamed green beans and slices of baguette to mop up the sauce. This dish would also work beautifully with some silky pomme purée or mashed spuds as we affectionately and less pretentiously call them in my house. I have used un-boned chicken breasts with the skin still on in this recipe, but you could also use a whole jointed chicken.


25g butter
6 chicken breasts, bone in, skin still on
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
150g button mushrooms, finely sliced
150ml fino sherry
500ml light chicken stock
1tblsp green peppercorns in brine, drained
200ml double cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over a moderate heat. Once the butter begins to sizzle, add the chicken breasts skin side down. Season the chicken generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to fry gently for 5-7 minutes until the skin in a deep golden brown and then turn the chicken breasts over and cook for 3-4 minutes on the other side.
2. Remove the chicken breasts to a dish while you prepare the rest of the dish. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the sauté pan and fry over a gently heat for 5 minutes until the onions are softened and the mushrooms have begun to gently colour. Increase the heat under the pan and pour in the sherry. Allow to bubble for 2 minutes and then add the chicken stock and peppercorns.
3. Place the chicken breasts back in the sauté pan, put the lid on the pan and allow to simmer over a gentle heat for 5-7 minutes. Remove the chicken to a clean dish, cover, keep somewhere warm and allow to rest.
4. Increase the heat under the pan so that the sauce is bubbling away. Taste, adjust seasoning as necessary and reduce the sauce by two thirds. Next add the cream and taste again, adjusting seasoning again, if necessary. Allow to reduce slightly to a coating sauce consistency (i.e. reduce by about a third). The sauce is now ready.
5. Serve the chicken (one breast per portion) with the sauce spooned over.
Serves 6.