Set the cream cheese aside: a smooth-melting washed rind cheese like Ashbrook is the secret to an incredible cream sauce. This recipe is adapted from Alessandro Grano, the head chef of La Fromagerie restaurants in London and the recipe developer for the book A Year in Cheese. It's a classic pan-seared chicken dish served with mashed potatoes and parsnips—delicious on its own, even better with accents of mushrooms, sherry, and tarragon. The cream sauce brings it all together, with crème fraîche for tanginess and cut-up bits of Ashbrook for a subtle fruity funk. A simple, yet showstopping chicken recipe to bring out for a holiday gathering.
Ashbrook is an American spin on the French cheese Morbier, made by the Alpine style experts at Spring Brook Farm. Just like Morbier, it's a supple and creamy cheese with a line of vegetable ash down the center, and a real chameleon in the kitchen. We love it in this recipe, and think you will, too.
For the chicken
- 1 whole chicken, preferably free range
- 1 bay leaf
- 7 ounces carrots (about 2), diced with the trimmings reserved
- 3 celery stalks, diced with the trimmings reserved
- 1 onion, diced with the trimmings reserved
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- All purpose flour, for dusting
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped thyme
- 11 ounces mixed wild mushrooms, such as baby bella, oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, and king oyster
- 14 ounces dry sherry
- 7 ounces crème fraîche
- 8 ounces Ashbrook, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon, to serve
For the mash
- 14 ounces (2 or 3) Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
- 7 ounces (about 1 large) parsnips
- Knob of unsalted butter
Start with the stock. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and remove the breastbone. You can ask your butcher to do this. Rinse the bones and put in a pan with the bay leaf and the trimmings from the carrots, celery, and onion. Cover with cold water in a large stockpot, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a sieve and set aside.
Meanwhile, season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper, then dust them lightly with flour. Put the vegetable oil in a cast-iron casserole dish over a medium heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken and fry, turning as needed, until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Drain the fat from the pan, return it to medium heat, and add the butter. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, clean the mushrooms and cut into large chunks. Add to the vegetables and season with salt and pepper, and cook until they brown as well, about 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
When the mushrooms are browned, return the chicken to the pan and add the sherry. Increase the heat to high and cook for a few minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the prepared stock, cover the casserole dish, and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
To make the potato-parsnip mash, peel and cut the potatoes and parsnips into evenly sized chunks and put in a pan of cold, well salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until tender. Drain and put in a pan with the butter. Mash well and season. Cover with a lid to keep warm.
Take the casserole dish from the oven and remove the chicken and mushrooms to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. If the sauce is too thin, put the casserole dish on the stove over medium heat until the sauce has thickened. Add the crème fraîche and Ashbrook and stir well to combine.
Serve the chicken, mushrooms, and mash topped with the sauce and a sprinkle of tarragon.