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Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce

by . Featured in COOK EAT REPEAT
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Introduction

There is something old-fashioned and comforting about a cream sauce. It's so rare to come across these days, and I think it's time we welcomed it back. My paternal grandmother was very keen on chicken with finely sliced button mushrooms and cream, which I remember fondly if blandly, and although you could certainly fry a panful of mushrooms in butter and add cream to it, I much prefer this funghi-free and fiercely garlicky version.

I love this best, I think, with plain basmati rice, but I can't deny there is an equally good case to be made for some simply steamed new potatoes alongside instead.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

There is something old-fashioned and comforting about a cream sauce. It's so rare to come across these days, and I think it's time we welcomed it back. My paternal grandmother was very keen on chicken with finely sliced button mushrooms and cream, which I remember fondly if blandly, and although you could certainly fry a panful of mushrooms in butter and add cream to it, I much prefer this funghi-free and fiercely garlicky version.

I love this best, I think, with plain basmati rice, but I can't deny there is an equally good case to be made for some simply steamed new potatoes alongside instead.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Chicken With Garlic Cream Sauce
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Serves: 4, or 6 if you get a bigger chicken or boost with extra chicken portions

Metric Cups

FOR THE CHICKEN

  • 1 x approx. 1½ kilograms chicken spatchcocked (or see step 1)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes (or ½ teaspoon fine sea salt), plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 fat cloves garlic
  • 30g or 2 x 15ml tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 75 millilitres dry white vermouth (or wine) combined with 75ml / 5 tablespoons cold water (see Additional Info below)

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 300 millilitres double cream
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic
  • A good grinding of pepper
  • sea salt flakes to taste
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons finely chopped flatleaf parsley
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons finely chopped chives

FOR THE CHICKEN

  • 1 x approx. 3½ pounds chicken spatchcocked (or see step 1)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon fine sea salt), plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 fat cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons dry white vermouth (or wine) combined with 75ml / 5 tablespoons cold water (see Additional Info below)

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic
  • A good grinding of pepper
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Method

  1. If you haven’t got a butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you, do not worry: it’s easy enough to do yourself; indeed, it’s a task I take perhaps unseemly delight in. Put the chicken, breast-side down, in a large but fairly shallow roasting tin (I use one that measures 34 x 37 x 5cm / 14 x 15 x 2 inches) and push down on it until you hear a satisfying crunch. With some good kitchen scissors or poultry shears, cut through each side of the backbone, remove it, leaving it in the tin, then turn the chicken the other way up, and now press onto the breast to flatten it a little more.
  2. Flip the chicken breast-side down again and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of sea salt flakes (or ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt) over the inside of the chicken. Peel the 2 cloves of garlic and mince or grate over the chicken, too, and rub lightly into the meat. Leave for 30 minutes or so to let the chicken come to room temperature.
  3. Pour the cream into a small saucepan (I use one of 14cm / 6 inches diameter). Peel the 4 cloves of garlic, and mince or grate into the cream, add a good grinding of pepper, stir well, and bring to a boil, then turn down and let it bubble away for 3 minutes. Don’t worry about the cream boiling, just don’t let it boil over. Stir regularly with a silicon spatula so that you can scrape down the sides as well. Take the pan off the heat, cover with a lid or foil and let it steep while the chicken cooks.
  4. Heat the oven to 220℃/200℃ Fan/425°F. Turn the chicken the right way up, smear the soft butter over the skin, and sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon of sea salt flakes (or ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt.) Pour the vermouth and water (replacing both with light chicken stock if you prefer) into the tin around the chicken and transfer to the oven to cook for approx. 45 minutes, by which time the skin should be golden and crisp, and the meat completely cooked through. The juices should run clear if you use the tip of a knife to pierce where the thigh meets the body (or just waggle the thigh to see if it feels loose). Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Pour the juices from the roasting tin into your saucepan of cream, scraping up any golden sticky bits.
  5. While the chicken is resting, bring the cream sauce to just under a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer gently for 5 minutes, keeping an eye on the pan and stirring regularly. Taste to see if you want to add salt and pour into a warmed jug. Add most of the chopped parsley and chives to the jug and stir.
  6. Cut the chicken up and arrange on a warmed platter. Pour a little of the sauce over, and sprinkle with the remaining herbs. Bring the jug to the table with the chicken so that people can pour more over as they eat. It’s a lot of sauce, but that’s the way we like it. Should you have any left over, warm it up, add a little grated Parmesan and some more freshly chopped parsley or chives, toss with pasta or drizzle over steamed new potatoes or, frankly, anything you’d like.
  1. If you haven’t got a butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you, do not worry: it’s easy enough to do yourself; indeed, it’s a task I take perhaps unseemly delight in. Put the chicken, breast-side down, in a large but fairly shallow roasting tin (I use one that measures 34 x 37 x 5cm / 14 x 15 x 2 inches) and push down on it until you hear a satisfying crunch. With some good kitchen scissors or poultry shears, cut through each side of the backbone, remove it, leaving it in the tin, then turn the chicken the other way up, and now press onto the breast to flatten it a little more.
  2. Flip the chicken breast-side down again and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt) over the inside of the chicken. Peel the 2 cloves of garlic and mince or grate over the chicken, too, and rub lightly into the meat. Leave for 30 minutes or so to let the chicken come to room temperature.
  3. Pour the cream into a small saucepan (I use one of 14cm / 6 inches diameter). Peel the 4 cloves of garlic, and mince or grate into the cream, add a good grinding of pepper, stir well, and bring to a boil, then turn down and let it bubble away for 3 minutes. Don’t worry about the cream boiling, just don’t let it boil over. Stir regularly with a silicon spatula so that you can scrape down the sides as well. Take the pan off the heat, cover with a lid or foil and let it steep while the chicken cooks.
  4. Heat the oven to 220℃/200℃ Fan/425°F. Turn the chicken the right way up, smear the soft butter over the skin, and sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon of kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt.) Pour the vermouth and water (replacing both with light chicken stock if you prefer) into the tin around the chicken and transfer to the oven to cook for approx. 45 minutes, by which time the skin should be golden and crisp, and the meat completely cooked through. The juices should run clear if you use the tip of a knife to pierce where the thigh meets the body (or just waggle the thigh to see if it feels loose). Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Pour the juices from the roasting tin into your saucepan of cream, scraping up any golden sticky bits.
  5. While the chicken is resting, bring the cream sauce to just under a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer gently for 5 minutes, keeping an eye on the pan and stirring regularly. Taste to see if you want to add salt and pour into a warmed jug. Add most of the chopped parsley and chives to the jug and stir.
  6. Cut the chicken up and arrange on a warmed platter. Pour a little of the sauce over, and sprinkle with the remaining herbs. Bring the jug to the table with the chicken so that people can pour more over as they eat. It’s a lot of sauce, but that’s the way we like it. Should you have any left over, warm it up, add a little grated Parmesan and some more freshly chopped parsley or chives, toss with pasta or drizzle over steamed new potatoes or, frankly, anything you’d like.

Additional Information

If you prefer not to use alcohol, then you can use 150ml / scant ⅔ cup light chicken stock in place of the vermouth and water.

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare sauce to end of step 5 up to 1 day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in saucepan, stirring, until piping hot, then add chicken juices.

STORE:
Refrigerate chicken and sauce leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat sauce in saucepan until piping hot. Reheat chicken in microwave or transfer to ovenproof dish, cover with foil and heat in 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F oven until piping hot. Or eat cold.

FREEZE:
Freeze leftover chicken only in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge. Reheat as above.

If you prefer not to use alcohol, then you can use 150ml / scant ⅔ cup light chicken stock in place of the vermouth and water.

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare sauce to end of step 5 up to 1 day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in saucepan, stirring, until piping hot, then add chicken juices.

STORE:
Refrigerate chicken and sauce leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat sauce in saucepan until piping hot. Reheat chicken in microwave or transfer to ovenproof dish, cover with foil and heat in 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F oven until piping hot. Or eat cold.

FREEZE:
Freeze leftover chicken only in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge. Reheat as above.

Tell us what you think

What 4 Others have said

  • I ended up pouring the sauce into the roasting tin to scrape up the brown bits, which made my sauce significantly darker. I honestly don’t know how many bowls of basmati rice topped with that sauce I could eat!

    Posted by Benm1976 on 8th June 2021
  • Cooking my way through Cook, Eat, Repeat, this recipe kept calling to me so I finally made it. Followed the recipe exactly, served it with Nigella’s Crisscross Potatoes: delicious and genius! If you’re lucky enough to have any bits left in the pan, deglaze with white wine and combine with leftover sauce for pasta!

    Posted by AllanS on 1st May 2021
  • This was lovely! Chicken seemed to be happy because tender as tender can be. Infusing the garlic with the cream is a brilliant idea. Basmati rice is the right option.

    Posted by Zeus76600 on 23rd January 2021
  • The sauce in this recipe is truly amazing! The chicken by itself was tender, juicy and full of flavor, but the creamy-garlic sauce took it to the next level. I served it with rice and roast carrots and green beans. It was divine!

    Posted by joshv41680 on 14th January 2021
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