Many simple meals that are easy to prepare in the ship’s galley come from the generation before mine and were handed down from beloved family and friends. I’ve updated and reengineered many of these recipes from their original form. In recent years aboard Scaramouche, our Tayana 58, I made my husband’s aunt’s recipe for Chicken Noel, a recipe that many people seem to have acquired the same way. The earlier-era recipe called for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, canned mushrooms, and a can of cream of mushroom soup as the base for the sauce, and specified baking in a roasting pan. To kick it up a notch, I use skin-on, bone-in chicken breast, which delivers a tastier and moister version than its boneless, skinless cousins, not to mention being easier on the food kitty. Fresh mushrooms, along with a couple of added ingredients, yield an easy homemade sauce. I prepare the dish in a 10-inch cast-iron pan and finish cooking in the oven. This recipe is not only delicious, but it’s also versatile: If you don’t have or don’t like portobellos, substitute button mushrooms. For a richer flavor, you can use creme fraiche instead of sour cream. No chicken? No problem—it also works well with pork chops.
New-Age Chicken Noel
- 1 whole bone-in/skin-on chicken breast, split in half or quartered
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 cups portobello or button mushrooms, sliced*
- 1/4 cup dry sherry or Marsala wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/3 cup sour cream (or more as desired for thickness)
- Paprika, to taste
*Portobellos add more flavor.
Preparation: at anchor
Time: 1 hour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Use a cast-iron or other stovetop-to-oven pan if you have one. (If not, use a saute pan and transfer to greased baking dish before finishing in oven.) Heat the olive oil in the pan, and brown the chicken on both sides. Transfer chicken to a plate; reserve juices. Add butter to the pan, and saute mushrooms until lightly browned and firm, not soft. Deglaze the pan with sherry or Marsala, and reduce to half its volume. Add chicken stock and reserved juices, reduce the heat, and simmer until the sauce reduces by half. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream to thicken the sauce, return the chicken to the pan (or place chicken in a baking dish), and spoon mushroom sauce over it. Sprinkle with paprika, and finish in the oven until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F (about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts). Serve hot with cooked egg noodles or rice. Serves two, with leftovers.
Proper mushroom prep is key to good flavor. To clean mushrooms, slice off stems and discard. For portobellos, scrape out gills (the dark webbing inside the cap) with a spoon. Wipe off any dirt with a damp paper towel. Avoid rinsing, or mushrooms will be spongy when cooked. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often. Do not crowd the pan; mushrooms release liquid, which needs space to evaporate fully to prevent soggy texture.