WINE: Chateau Pierre Bise, ‘Clos de Coulaine’ Savennieres
WITH: Poached chicken with mushrooms
WHY? Complex wines work well with complex foods
After watching Raymond Blancs’ programme “How to cook well” I was inspired to make this dish. and after racking my brains a little I decided chance upon a bottle of Savennieres.
Savennieres has long been considered a ‘sommelier’s wine’ because it’s seen as something that is as far removed from a commercial style of wine as possible (although not quite like a natural wine). Therefore, sommeliers love it for its rarity. It’s the type of wine that those pretentious wine sorts might drop into a conversation just to show off.
But aside from its reputation, it is a very unique style of wine. It has lots of complexity, and is often slightly, deliberately oxidised so to most wine drinkers it’s a little bit wacky. Precisely the reason I chose it to pair with my poached chicken breast.
Although the wine is slightly off the wall, and the chicken is as traditionally French as it gets, both have a huge variety of flavours that complement each other. The chicken is poached – I know, I know – poached anything other than eggs does not sound particularly appetising, in fact it sounds scarily diet-esque. But this example is not the colourless slab of meat you might expect, but golden brown as it is flash-fried in brown butter, then poached so the middle just cooks through. It’s achingly tender and served in a creamy mushroom sauce.
And the sauce! Oh my, that is what really pulls the dish together. It’s so simple with only four ingredients but the depth of flavour is incredible – the likely culprit behind this being the soaked morels.
It takes absolutely no time to throw together, and served with a side of some steamed leeks, carrots and baby new potatoes it’s a great weekend supper that will blow everything else out of the water.
Chicken with morels and a white wine sauce
Adapted from Raymond Blanc
- 15g/¼oz dried morel mushrooms, soaked in 250ml/9fl oz water overnight
- 4 chicken breasts, preferably free-range and organic, skin off (about 180g/6oz)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 60g/2¼oz button mushrooms, very firm, washed quickly, quartered
- 100ml/3½fl oz white wine boiled for 30 seconds to remove the alcohol
- 200ml/7fl oz double cream
- Drain the morels, squeezing to extract as much of the soaking water as possible, making sure you reserve the water.
- Pass the morel liquid through a fine sieve or muslin to remove any grit. Measure out 50ml/2fl oz of the liquid for making the sauce later.
- Wash the morels again in plenty of water to remove any sand. Drain and squeeze any excess water from the morels. Chop them roughly and set aside.
- Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a frying pan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it is foaming. Add the chicken breasts and colour lightly for three minutes on each side, remove from the pan and reserve.
- In the butter remaining in the pan used to cook the chicken, soften the soaked, cleaned morels and button mushrooms for 1-2 minutes and season with a pinch of salt. Add the boiled wine or sherry, morel juice and double cream; bring to the boil and place the chicken breasts back into the pan. The cream sauce must cover the breasts. Lower the heat to barely a gentle simmer and cook for 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the pan and keep warm. Turn the heat up to boil the sauce and cook until the volume of liquid has reduced so that it coats the back of a spoon. Taste and add salt if necessary.
- For the leeks, while the chicken breasts are cooking, bring 200g/7oz of water, the salt and butter to the boil. Add the chopped leeks, cover with a lid and cook on full boil for three minutes.
- Drain the leeks. You can serve them as they are, or add them to the morel sauce at this stage.
- Place the chicken breasts into the sauce to reheat for two minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
- To serve, place the chicken breasts and leeks on a large serving dish and pour the morel sauce generously over and allow your guests to help themselves. I added some steamed carrots and toasted pine nuts too.