Béchamel Chicken

After Alix’s success with salads, I was delighted to find a copy of Ursel and Derek Norman’s Chicken Feed (Fontana, 1979) for £1 in the RSPCA shop on the Hornsey Rd (prices for it online start at £18 – wha’?!) and even more delighted to find that it is full of delicious-sounding, easy dishes. I chose this one as 1) different to how I would normally make chicken 2) I could make it without shopping for extra ingredients.

Béchamel Chicken

An inexpensive family dish especially appreciated on a chilly night. Chicken baked in a deliciously creamy herb sauce. Serve with boiled potatoes and a green vegetable for a nutritious and heart-warming meal.

Time to prepare: About 1 hourBechamel Chicken Recipe - Ursel and Derek Norman

1 1/2 kg / 3lb chicken, cut up
2 tablespoons oil
50g/ 2oz butter
50g/ 2oz butter
500ml/ 1 pint milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of dried fine herbes

(equal quantities of oregano, basil, thyme, majoram)
1 bayleaf

Makes 4 servings

Pre-heat oven to 160C degrees, 350F degrees, gas mark 3.

1. Heat oil in frying pan and brown chicken pieces until dark golden

2. Melt butter in heavy saucepan. Stir in flour until it has been absorbed. Add the milk in a steady stream, stirring vigorously with a wire whisk [or small spoon, since my whisk broke recently and has yet to be replaced]. Keep stirring until mixture thickens. Leave to simmer gently for 2 minutes.

3. Season with salt, pepper, herbs and add bayleaf.

4. Pour over chicken in casserole and cover tightly.

5. Place in oven and cook until tender, about 35 minutes. (If the sauce should thicken too much during the cooking, thin down with milk or single cream.)

Note: Can be made a few hours ahead, up to stage 4.

Notes

  • The construction of this dish should have gone smoothly. Unfortunately I discovered that the chicken I had frozen and defrosted (in the fridge) had gone off somehow and had to be jettisoned and replaced. (Oh the guilt – porr chicken!)
  • I followed the recipe exactly but don’t understand why you wouldn’t brown the chicken in a heavy saucepan and put it in an ovenproof dish while the sauce is made in the same pan, in order that all the flavour of the chicken is retained. OK, it wouldn’t be by-the-book béchamel, but it would be less washing up and more tasty.

Results

Bechamel Chicken

There was a slight problem with this dish, that was not the fault of the recipe – I  gave it slightly longer than specified while the potatoes cooked and cooked and so the chicken ended a bit dry. It was still very edible (actually, I was on the verge of tucking into my own sofa by the time the spuds were done), although the sauce was undoubtedly thicker than the author had in mind. Would make again but only with more flavouring added to the sauce – booze sprang to mind on the first bite, but shallots, bacon, mushrooms or even some more herbs, would move this dish from good to great.

Béchameled by Elly

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