Monday, 5 November 2012

babcia's chicken and leeks in white sauce

chicken and leeks in white sauce
this dinner summons all the comfort necessary on a cold winter night. there is not much to it except an unblemished white sauce. its colours reflect winter as both the sauce and the contents bound by it have a pale palette. the heat here is meant only to cook the chicken and leeks, not colour it. although pale it is not a nursery like white sauce as a combination of spices such as white pepper, chilli flakes and a little whole grain mustard give it a sharp warmth. a little bit of parsley checks the bleached colours. 

chicken in white sauce recalls babcia and daddy’s dinner table specifically roast chicken dinners. this is because babcia often made it with left over chicken roast, making sure to pick the carcass clean in preparation for it. her kitchen has an electric and gas cooker. she always uses the electric one, stirring the white sauce with concentration and spicing it judiciously. she adds tinned button mushrooms to the mix. i find the texture of these unappealing and although i meant to get fresh mushrooms, i got side tracked by the leeks. they are a much-favoured vegetable and love white sauce. it is a combination that amplifies the soft textures of the dish. i had some mini chicken fillets that i sautéed with the leeks. if you have left over roast, cut it into small chunks and add it to the white sauce. or take the nigel slater route by poaching thighs in milk and use the poaching liquor to make the white sauce. the essence of the bone-in chicken ramps up the flavour that extra bit. although it does mean a little bit of extra work in picking the meat. the base recipe is very much babcia’s but i have tweaked some elements, these being leeks in place of mushrooms and a spoonful of wholegrain mustard. at babcia’s we would eat this on a tangle of tagliatelle or sometimes rice. i am content eating this without either. other options include giving it a lid of puff pastry, or spooning it into a shallow bowls fashioned from it. 

{babcia’s chicken in white sauce} 

one tablespoon olive oil 
six hundred grams leeks, light green and white parts only 
four hundred grams boneless chicken, diced 
two tablespoons butter 

two tablespoons flour 

six hundred ml whole milk 
half a teaspoon white pepper 
half a teaspoon red chilli flakes 
heaping half teaspoon wholegrain mustard 

start by preparing the leeks. slice them in half lengthwise and then cut then into half moons in pound thickness. rinse thoroughly and then pat dry with kitchen towel. sweat the leeks in the olive oil over medium low heat in a heavy bottomed pan. they should soften and turn translucent. turn up the heat before adding the chicken. when it looses its raw look lower the heat again. allow the chicken to cook for another ten minutes. it is ready when it is pale and any moisture from it has fully evaporated. remove the chicken and leek mixture reserving it for later. 

in the same pan, melt the butter and flour over a gentle heat, stirring regularly. i use a wooden spoon with a flat end as it helps to create a smooth roux. when the flour smells toasted and is a pale gold in colour (around two minutes) begin to add the milk gradually. i find using a whisk to mix the milk into the roux gives a smooth sauce. 

return the chicken and leek mixture to the pan. add the seasonings and bring the contents of the pan to a boil. the sauce will thicken at this final stage. garnish with a shower of chopped flat leaf parsley and serve with rice or pasta.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous14.4.14

    Looks and sounds yummy - aim to try soon, thanks