Friday, January 15, 2010

The 21st Century Housewife's© Chicken with White Wine and Leek Sauce

Leeks have quite a reputation. Many people consider them a bit of an odd vegetable, quite difficult to clean, hard to use, and mostly pretty expensive. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Leeks are wonderful, really mild and delicious, and contrary to popular belief they are not at all difficult to prepare. In years gone by, leeks used to be very dirty when they came in from the fields, but now they are usually pre-washed before they get to the shops so cleaning them at home is a much easier undertaking. Leeks can be expensive (not always, but sometimes) but you usually only need three or four of them for a recipe so it shouldn’t break the bank.

To prepare leeks, simply cut off the dark green ends. You want to use the white bit, and a bit of the pale green part, but where it starts to get really green, it gets tough - so cut that part off. You also want to cut off the very bottom bit, where you can see the roots were. Thoroughly rinse and dry the outside of the leeks, and if they are very dirty, remove one layer of skin. Now lay the leeks on a cutting board and slice them very thinly. Put the sliced leeks in a large bowl and rinse in cold water two or three times, using a colander to drain them briefly between rinses. When there is no longer any dirt visible, drain the leeks thoroughly. That’s all there is to it.

This recipe is an easy way to make chicken taste really special. I use chicken breasts, but there is no reason why you could not use this sauce with roasted chicken pieces. I like to bake my chicken in the oven, just drizzled with a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. If you are using chicken breasts, you can start the sauce about fifteen to twenty minutes after you have put them in the oven to bake, but chicken pieces take longer so I would probably start after twenty-five to thirty minutes.

Sorry to be bossy, but please use a white wine that you would be prepared to drink from a glass for this sauce, and don’t ever use anything labeled “cooking wine” in any recipe. “Cooking wine” tastes just awful, even cooked. On a slightly less bossy note, it’s nice to drink the same wine you used in the recipe when you are eating the finished dish! By the way, don’t worry about serving a dish with this small amount of wine in it to children. The vast majority of the alcohol cooks off when you are reducing the wine anyway, but the wine still gives the sauce a gorgeous flavour.

The recipe make enough sauce for 4 to 6 chicken breasts or a similar number of chicken pieces and makes a wonderful family meal.

4 to 6 chicken breasts or an assortment of chicken pieces drizzled with a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 leeks, finely sliced, washed and drained
¼ cup good white wine
2 generous tablespoons flour
1-¼ to 1-½ cups milk
½ cup frozen peas
salt and pepper

Bake the chicken in a hot oven (about 375℉ or 190℃) until done. Chicken breasts take about thirty minutes; chicken pieces will take longer. When cooked, the meat should have an internal temperature of at least 330℉ or 165℃ and there should be no pink meat remaining at all.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the drained leeks and stir to coat with the butter. Fry gently for three or four minutes until softened.

Add the white wine, turn up the heat and allow the wine to reduce for a minute or so. Turn the heat back to medium, and sprinkle the flour over top of the leeks, stirring to coat them thoroughly. Cook gently, stirring constantly, for a minute or two.

Gradually add the milk, a bit at a time, stirring after each addition. As the sauce thickens, add a bit more milk, continuing to stir. You want the sauce to be fairly thick, so that it stays on the chicken when you pour it over top (not runny like gravy) but not too thick or “gloopy”. (You may not need all the milk, or you may find you need a tiny bit more. Just go carefully.)

When the sauce has reached a nice consistency, lower the heat and stir in the frozen peas. Cook for two or three minutes, still continuing to stir the sauce regularly, until the peas are heated through. If the sauce has thickened a bit more, you can always add a tiny bit more milk and stir it through.

Serve the sauce over the chicken with extra in a sauceboat on the side so people can add more if they like.

I served this with roast potatoes and turnip when my son photographed it, but it would be really lovely served on a bed of rice as well.

I’m linking this post up to Foodie Friday on Designs by Gollum, The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap, Food on Fridays over at Ann Kroeker’s Blog and Friday Food over at Momtrends.

Thanks to everyone who entered the Le Creuset Giveaway. The winner was Joyce from the Flour Power blog. Have a great weekend everyone!

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