I’m often asked why my food tastes to good. And I’m always stumped for an answer because honestly, I just cook with really good ingredients and I know which flavours work together and which ingredients compliment each other. Somehow, that’s not the answer people are looking for. They want me to tell them about a magic ingredient I add to my food but really, it’s so much simpler than that. Take for instance this chicken. Chicken is a bland canvas when it comes to flavour. You can go any route with it but one I tend to come back to time and time again, is that of garlic, herbs and lemon. I’m always so surprised at the amount of people who don’t add garlic and/or lemon to their food. And once they do, they understand why my food tastes so good. You see, garlic adds depth. Incredible depth and a hum of something fantastic. Garlic isn’t just there to add to garlic bread or snails. If you cook garlic for long enough it sweetends and mellows and adds a buzz of flavour. Then there’s lemon. My darling lemon. If I don’t have fresh lemon in my house I get panicky. I add it to almost everything (and I really mean that). The zest adds perfume and intense lemon flavour while the juice brightens all the other flavours in your dish. It’s such a magical ingredient.
So, a few nights ago when I was faced with chicken breasts on the bone, I wanted to cook them simply but add a big flavour punch. I browned them in a pan with whole garlic cloves, fresh thyme and sage and finished them with some lemon juice before transferring them to a baking tray and finishing them off in the oven. I served them with a mustard cream sauce SO delicious, I practically drowned my chicken in it. The secret to this is to use the pan you’ve browned the chicken in. All those sticky, burnt on bits is Flavour with a capital F. Deglaze the pan with wine, chicken stock or water and then add the cream, aromatics and mustard. Believe me, your sauces will never be the same again if you use the same pan you cooked your meat in, to make the sauce.
I served the chicken with steamed green beans which I tossed with a simple lemon vinaigrette (there’s that lemon again) and barrel-aged Feta cheese. Such an amazing side dish for anything from grilled to roast meats or as part of a vegetarian feast.
- 4 chicken breasts on the bone, skin on
- salt & pepper to taste
- handful fresh sage leaves
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 6 whole garlic cloves
- juice of 1 lemon
for the sauce
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup cream
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 heaped teaspoons wholegrain mustard
- spritz of lemon juice
- salt & pepper to taste
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
- Season the chicken generously.
- In a large pan, brown the chicken breasts in a splash of olive oil.
- Add the herbs and garlic and allow to fry for another minute.
- Transfer the chicken and the aromatics to an oven-safe dish and drizzle with the lemon juice.
- Place in the oven and allow to roast for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through but still juicy.
- To make the sauce, deglaze the pan you cooked the chicken in with the wine (you can also use chicken stock or water).
- Add the cream, bay leaf, thyme and mustard and allow to simmer for 10 minutes until slightly reduced.
- Season with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Serve the sauce with the roasted chicken breasts.