Saturday, 6 October 2012

Shaun Hill's Chicken Escalope with Tarragon and Leeks

In our house we have a bookshelf absolutely full of cookbooks. They have usually been bought for us as gifts and, as lovely as they are, we are both guilty of not really putting them to much use. Very often they get forgotten about and we just use the internet as our source of foodie inspiration. With all these great recipes and ideas just lying around, we thought we should make a greater effort to put them to good use. I took the first one I came to (which was literally right next to me on the coffee table) and decided to choose one recipe to cook. The book I picked up was by Shaun Hill and is called "Better gravy and other kitchen secrets". We haven't eaten chicken in a while and so I went straight for the poultry section and went for his "Chicken Escalope with Tarragon and Leeks".

Shaun is a very experienced chef from London who has previously won two Michelin stars. This book gives the average homecook an insight into how to prepare restaurant quality food, at home. It explains how to make simple ingredients really pack a punch and how to make food richer and more flavourful. Half the book is based around specific ingredients and how to use them. The second half looks at different cooking techniques and then explains which ingredients are best suited for particular techniques. The book is very well laid out, and although a lot of the recipes and methods take a long time to make it is all explained in an easy-to-read manner.

"Better gravy" uses a lot of very classical cooking techniques including the preparation of stocks, pastry and how to cook different meat and fish. He draws on a lot of his knowledge of French cuisine and this makes for a really interesting read for the avid homecook who aspires to be able to make restaurant quality food at home. In my humble opinion, I think our replica of his tarragon chicken recipe was of restaurant quality.

This recipe serves 4.


4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
8 tarragon leaves
2 eggs
a handful of oats
25g butter
10g plain flour
150ml milk
grated nutmeg
1 tsp Dijon mustard
a dash Worcestershire sauce
1kg leeks, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon
oil for frying


1. Flatten the chicken slightly by wrapping the breast in cling film and hitting it with a rolling pin. Season with salt and pepper then place 2 tarragon leaves on each breast.

2. Dip each breast in the beaten egg, and then roll in the oats. (Shaun's recipe calls for breadcrumbs instead of the oats but I chose oats based on two factors - the success of our oat rolled herring in creating a really crunchy batter and secondly, we didnt have any bread in the house!)

3. Melt some butter on a medium heat then add the flour. Allow it to cook for a few seconds then pour in the milk slowly making sure that you are stirring constantly. Bring it to the boil and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

4. Meanwhile, drop the leeks into a pan of boiling water. When the water re-boils, take out the leeks and add them to the sauce along with the chopped tarragon.

5. Heat some oil in a hot pan and fry the chicken. This should take about 4 minutes on each side depending on how hard you hit them with the rolling pin!

6. Seve the chicken alongside the creamed leeks and tarragon.

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