Chicken in a Cheese and Sherry Sauce

Chicken in a Cheese and Sherry Sauce

Tender poached Chicken baked in a flavoursome Cheese and Sherry Sauce

 

This recipe is a firm family favourite. A splash of dry sherry in a good and cheesy roux sauce covering tender pieces of poached chicken. The gratin is finished with a crunchy topping of golden melted cheese  and  fresh bread or panko crumbs. It is a dish which  lends itself to being made in quantity for entertaining, particularly for casual buffet parties. It  also freezes brilliantly.  

The dish works best if you poach the chicken using the instructions below. The advantage is that you get lovely fresh chicken stock to use as a base for delicious fresh soups, or you can freeze it for later use in soups and sauces. I like to have a range of 250ml and 500ml batches of homemade chicken stock in the freezer.   However, if time is short, or you aren’t overly confident about poaching a chicken, you will be happy to hear that this recipe  can also be made with  bought ready cooked chicken or pieces.   Prepare the ready cooked chicken as instructed and then simply make the cheese and sherry sauce using a propriety chicken stock.   

Watch point for ready made shop stocks: I find ready made fresh liquid stocks have quite a strong flavour and colour. If you are using them for this recipe they need to be diluted to the ratio of  1 part stock to 1 part water.  Stock powders and cubes, and  condensed liquid stocks  tend to be strong in flavour and overly salty. Again, dilute these to taste before you start adding them to your sauce.

Chicken in a Cheese and Sherry Sauce

Serves 6.

 To Poach the Chicken:

1  medium sized fresh chicken

1 onion, skinned and halved

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

3 bay leaves

6 whole cloves

Put the chicken into a large heavy pan or casserole and pour in enough cold water to just cover it. Add the peeled onion halves, the chopped carrot and the bay leaves and cloves. Put the lid on the pan and over a moderate heat bring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmering and poach the chicken for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until it is tender and the juices run clear. Remove the cooked chicken from the stock to a dish and allow it to cool enough for you to remove the meat from the carcass by hand. Strain the stock. Measure out the quantity required to complete the sauce and allow the remaining stock to cool before refrigerating or freezing in 500ml batches.

NB. Quantity equivalent for using ready cooked chicken. One whole ready cooked chicken or the equivalent in weight in pieces.  If you chose to use chicken pieces then go for leg and thigh portions on the bone as they tend to be more succulent. 

Prepare the cooked chicken:

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle remove all of the flesh from the carcass and bones, tearing the pieces into bite-sized strips. Put the chicken pieces into a 1.5 litre oven proof dish.

 

Make the Cheese and sherry sauce.

250 ml milk

50ml dry sherry

200ml of the chicken poaching stock o

50g butter

50g plain flour

75g cheddar cheese, grated

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

 

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a moderate to low heat. Add the flour, mix it well and cooking for about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and very gradually add the stock stirring well between each addition (it is fine if the stock is still warm). stir in the Sherry . The sauce will be the consistency of batter at this stage. Finally mix in the milk.

Return the pan to a low to medium heat and stir continuously to thicken and cook the sauce, bringing it all the way to boiling point. Once the sauce is boiling simmer it gently for a few minutes to make sure that the flour is well cooked. Remove the pan from the heat and once the bubbles subside stir in 2/3rds of the grated cheese and a few twists of black pepper and mix well.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and stir gently to mix. Mix the final 1/3 of the cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top of the chicken. You can cool the dish down at this stage, cover and chill for freezing or for cooking later.

 

Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese and the breadcrumbs over the chicken.

Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese and the breadcrumbs over the chicken. You can chill or freeze the dish at this stage for later use.

 

To cook the gratin:

Pre heat the oven to 180c/gas5/6.

Put the dish containing the chicken onto a baking tray and cook in the centre of the hot oven for 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling and piping hot all the way through. To cook from frozen you will need 40 minutes for this quantity.

Serve with boiled rice, new or baked potatoes and piles of steamed veg or a fresh salad. It would go very well with the baked new potatoes in a salt crust New Potatoes Baked in an Orange Scented Salt Crust with Mint and Rosemary

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Alternatives and additions:

This recipe is also a fantastic way to use up the remains of a Sunday roast chicken. If I am using roast Sunday lunch remains then any vegetables and left over roast potatoes tend to get chopped into chunks and stirred into the mix and the gravy remains used instead of stock.

Use poached pheasant and pheasant stock as an alternative to the chicken.

Add 200g of  your favourite ham cut into bite sized chunks, or 3 to 4 cooked sausages to the chicken to add a different flavour or to make the dish stretch to a couple of extra diners.

The pretty Polish oven proof china used in these photographs is from Mugs Jugs and More http://www.mugsjugs.moonfruit.com/

This recipe was designed by Stirring  Stuff

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