Sunday, 19 August 2012

A stress-free dinner with friends: chicken chasseur and OMG chocolate brownies

Last night we had good friends coming for dinner and for the first time in a long time I didn't panic.

I usually get very stressed out beforehand because I appear to have made friends with people who really know how to cook. Some of my friends are brilliant cooks - in fact one of my friends runs two restaurants - so instead of looking forward to their company I usually spend the days leading up to a visit in a complete state of panic!

But this time it was different.  First of all, I decided to keep it simple - I just can't compete with their skills in the kitchen, so settled for a fairly easy menu. And secondly, I tried to focus on the fact that they were coming to see us and not to award an Michelin star.

For the first course I served a selection of continental cold meats, olives, artichoke hearts and peppers (from jars), pate, salad and a variety of breads.  It was all set up beforehand, which gave me time to prepare the main course in relative calm.

The main course was chicken chasseur, carrot mash, green beans and boiled new potatoes. I apologise for no photo, but I've borrowed one from the Knorr website where I took the recipe from.

Chicken chasseur (with my notes in italics)

  • 2tbsps olive oil
  • 1tbsp plain flour, for coating
  • 1 small chicken jointed into 8 pieces or (the easier option which I took!) 8 chicken thigh portions (skin on or off as preferred) 
  • 2 shallots, very finely chopped (100g)
  • 50ml brandy, optional
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1 Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
  • 600ml tomato juice (I didn't use this much, it seemed a lot - I probably used half)
  • 250g button mushrooms, peeled and finely sliced
  • 3tbsp chopped tarragon (didn't have any!)
  • 2tbsps chopped parsley
  • 2 tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded, finely diced

1.    Gently heat 1tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. You want the oil to be hot but not so hot that it scorches the floured chicken.
2.    Spread a layer of flour on a plate or a tray. Flour the chicken pieces, coating them in the flour evenly and thoroughly and shaking off the excess. 
3.    Add the floured chicken pieces to the hot olive oil, skin side down. Fry the chicken without moving the pieces until golden-brown underneath, around 8-10 minutes; turn over the chicken and fry until browned on the other side. 
4.    Add the finely chopped shallot to the chicken pieces in the frying pan, placing them under the chicken so that the shallot cooks.
5.    If using brandy, pour it in around the edge of the pan so that it runs underneath the chicken pieces. Cook for 2-3 minutes to cook off the alcohol.
6.    Then add in the wine, again pouring it in round the sides of the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes so that the alcohol from the wine cooks off and its acidity is reduced.
7.    Now add in the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and the tomato juice (don't add it all, add half like I did then check so see if more is needed). Shake the pan to gently work it in, turning the chicken pieces to coat them in the liquid.
8.    Slowly bring to the boil, dissolving the stock. Add the tarragon to the chicken and simmer for 5 minutes. (At this point, I took the chicken pieces out, kept them warm in the oven and reduced the sauce down until it was thick and much more intense in flavour, then I returned the chicken to the pan to finish the dish).
9.    While the chicken is simmering, heat remaining olive oil, in a separate frying pan. (I didn't use an extra pan, I just added the mushrooms and tomatoes into the main pan 5 mins from the end of cooking, it worked out fine.)
10.    Add in the sliced mushrooms and fry them for 3-5 minutes. Add in the parsley, shaking the pan to mix it in well. Add in the diced tomato, shaking to mix in well.
11.    Spoon the mushroom mixture over the chicken pieces, garnish with parsley sprigs and serve at once.

This chicken dish was really tasty and everyone - including the very fussy Teenager - enjoyed it. I'll definitely be cooking it again, it's destined to be a favourite in our house.

chocolate brownies
OMG chocolate brownies - I put walnuts on one half and left the other half nut free
as Tall Daughter doesn't like them

Pudding was a recipe from Red Online for OMG warm chocolate brownies - my name for them, because that's what we said when we tasted them -  they were gooey, fudgey and very very rich. If you use the same recipe though, be warned that I had to leave them to bake for nearer to 40 minutes than the suggested 25. Served with a good quality vanilla ice-cream.  Delicious!

chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream

Add to this good friends, laughter, talking until the small hours and copious amounts of wine - and it's the perfect combination for an enjoyable evening.

What do you serve when you have friends coming for dinner?