How to cook Heston’s Masterchef Australia dish, its Heston Blumenthal’s winning Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream recipe.
Here in the UK we’ve all been wondering where Heston has disappeared to. It’s been nearly 12 months since his last proper series. Turns out he’s been off in Australia again, being a guest judge for a solid week on Masterchef (and no doubt doing some PR for Sage Appliances and looking at restaurant premises while he’s in the neighbourhood).
We ended up cooking this recipe before we saw the Masterchef Australia episode where Heston cooked it. It’s a popular Heston Blumenthal dish, featured on a lot of other blogs, and it’s been calling to us from the pages of his recipe book Heston at Home for nearly 2 years.
Here’s how Heston’s Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream dish appeared on Masterchef Australia:
We’re cooking the version from the recipe book, rather than the slightly altered version from Masterchef Australia, and serving it Kita-style with Heston’s Pommes Boulangère recipe as a side dish. Dessert was Heston’s Peach and Rosemary Tart Tatin recipe, which we will report on soon as a tribute to the eternally incredible Kavey Eats.
Special Equipment: None (but a temperature probe is useful)
Special Ingredients: Posh Sherry, truffle oil, skimmed milk powder (optional)
Time: 2 – 3 hours
Cost: £15 – £20
3 Brined skin-on chicken thighs
75g Unsalted butter
1 Onion, peeled and sliced
½ Leek, white part, sliced
2 Garlic cloves, peeled & bashed flat
250g White chicken stock
125g Double cream
5 Baby onions, peeled and halved
Pinch of sugar
4 Sprigs of thyme
150g Button mushrooms, quartered
50g Pancetta lardons
5g Parmesan cheese
5g Gruyère cheese
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp Truffle Oil
Chives, tarragon and parsley, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 100°C
- Dust chicken with flour and season with salt & pepper.
- Sear chicken with 30g of butter until golden then set aside.
- Add onions, leek & garlic to same pan. Cook for 15 minutes
- Add Sherry to onion mix, bring to boil and set alight.
- Reduce heat, add chicken stock & cream, simmer for 20 minutes
- Return chicken to pan, cover and place in oven for 45 minutes
- Meanwhile caramelise baby onions on one side with seasoning, thyme and sugar. Reserve.
- Fry mushrooms in butter over medium heat until golden, reserve.
- Fry lardons, drain and reserve.
- Remove pan from oven, allow to cool then remove chicken to one side
- Strain sauce, discard vegetables and reduce by half over a high heat
- Return the chicken to the pan to heat through
- Stir through the cheeses, mustard and truffle oil
- Garnish with lardons and herbs. Serve.
Step 1: Frying the Chicken
The Masterchef Australia Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream recipe calls for skimmed milk powder. Since we cooked this before watching the show we missed out on this trick, which would’ve helped create more Maillard flavours. We just used plain flour as per Heston at Home.
I managed to sear the chicken on all sides, before remembering its beef you do that for. We did get a lovely crispy skin, which would become pointless as the recipe progressed.
Note: I am proud to say I couldn’t be arsed brining the chicken, so it’s cooked fresh from the non-free range supermarket packet.
Step 2: Vegetables, Sherry and Cream
The aromatic vegetables in Heston’s Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream recipe just need a simple 15 minutes of cooking to soften. We did them in a different pan, which sadly meant we missed out on the additional flavour of rendered chicken fat, but thankfully swerved the nastiness of burnt butter.
When we added the Sherry I was hoping to take some glorious pictures of flamboyant kitchen pyrotechnics for you guys. The best I could manage was this vague blue flicker, like Calcifer doing an impersonation of Jacob Marley.
After this bung in the stock and cream then cook for 20 minutes to get rid of those raw dairy flavours.
Step 3: Low-Temperature Braise
At this point Heston’s Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream recipe asks you to return the chicken to the sherry and cream mix, then braise in a 100°C oven for 45 minutes.
This is fine, and ensures the chicken isn’t overcooked (75°C – 80°C being the target temperature for all you probe enthusiasts). However – we found that the skin absorbs a lot of liquid, turning flaccid and flabby.
Step 4: Onions, Mushrooms and Other Garnishes
If you really want to be efficient then the 45 minutes that the chicken is in the oven for is the perfect time for you attend to these other bits.
In a hint box on the very same page as the Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream recipe Heston says you can make baby onions easy to peel by blanching them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunging them into iced water.
We did exactly that, and it had absolutely zero effect. They were peeled the traditional way. I was worried the onions wouldn’t cook through, since the instructions say to just cook them on one side.
They did cook through, though we tossed them around a bit at the end to make sure. Adding thyme at this stage felt odd, we think thyme suits mushrooms much better.
Our button mushrooms took quite a while to reach the golden, slightly crispy stage. Unfortunately they looked pretty shrivelled and tragic once finished. We’d halve them or even keep whole in future so they had more presence.
Heston says you’re just aiming to render the fat out of the bacon, whereas we’d prefer a crispier finish for a more contrasting texture. Proper lardons would’ve been better than our sliced rashers.
At this point your countertops should be a disorganised cluster of finishing elements. It will only get worse during the next bit of Heston’s Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream recipe.
Step 5: Sherry and Cream Sauce
You’re meant to wait for the chicken and sherry and cream sauce to cool before starting the next bit. But that’d be another hour or more and we just couldn’t be bothered waiting.
Fish out the chicken (with it’s now saggy, un-crispy, waterlogged skin) and then strain the sauce into a clean pan.
As you can see there is a staggering amount of waste. But it’s all done its job of flavouring the sauce so try not to feel too guilty tipping it all in the bin.
Now bring to a boil and reduce by at least half, skimming impurities.
Step 6: Finishing
There’s lots of little things to bring together at the end of the dish. First, add the Dijon mustard, truffle oil and two cheeses to the sauce.
We found the request for just 10g each of both Parmesan and Gruyere quite annoying. We love Gruyere cheese (even visiting the Swiss town where it’s made earlier this year), but we don’t always have it in the house. We think you could get away with just doubling the amount of one cheese, rather than using both. Certainly don’t spend £2.90 on a block of Gruyere just for the recipe’s 10g.
Now tip in the chicken, mushrooms and onions to heat through. Finally garnish with the chopped herbs and lardons. Congratulations, Heston’s Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream recipe, as seen on Masterchef Australia, is done.
Heston’s Braised Chicken with Sherry and Cream is a dish with a complex, earthy flavour that makes it perfect for Autumn or winter.
We especially liked the sauce, where the sherry really stands out, though we’d have preferred a thicker consistency.
Maybe we should have reduced our sauce more, because we felt there was far too much of it – unlike the miserly portion of chicken. I’m not sure what kind of thinspiration meals Heston would normally cook at home but there is no way this dish serves six. Depending on the size of your thighs (the chicken’s, not your own) we’d say allow 2 – 3 of them per person. We do think adding mushrooms to the stock might have accentuated the earthy notes even more.
We served this with Heston’s Pommes Boulangère recipe, though absorbant mashed potato would have been a better pairing. And I wish we’d thought to add braised lettuce and peas as Heston did on the show.
Dessert was Heston’s Peach and Rosemary Tart Tatin, which is a recipe with some good and bad points.
It’s not cheap, but with a few user-friendly alterations this is a dish that we can, and will, be cooking again.
- Cook the entire dish in a pan or wok, as Heston did on Masterchef Australia
- Try to keep he skin above the simmering liquid to keep it crispy
- Use cheap Sherry (I’m no connoisseur, and we used over half a bottle that cost seven quid!)
- Halve the mushrooms, cook with thyme and add onions halfway through.
- Use extra parmesan if Gruyere isn’t available
- Reduce the sauce further, or add a pinch of xanthan gum
- Try making a winter version with game birds and Madeira maybe?
Have you tried making this dish? And if so would you use cheap Sherry or only the best? Whatever your thoughts let us know in the comments section…