Make Ahead

Romanian Creamed Chicken (Ciulama de pui)

August 27, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Serves 8 generously
Author Notes

I wish I could tell you what is so special about this recipe. It's essentially a chicken fricassee, common in many cultures. And yet when my grandmother pulled her big roaster brimming with this creamed chicken from the oven, people scurried to table and undid the top button of their pants as a preventative measure against the inevitable belly-stuffing that lay ahead. That's the power, I suppose, of simple comfort food shared with those we love.

Some prep notes: Toss the chicken neck and gizzards into the pot during cooking; they'll impart some great flavor, and there always seems to be at least one person in a family who considers these items tasty prizes. If there isn't one of those people in your family, fish them out before serving. In the old country, smetana, a soured heavy cream, would have given this dish extra depth, but it's just as nice with the conventional dairy called for in the recipe below (I can imagine, though, that using creme fraiche would mimic the smetana effect).

A few words of advice on consumption: First, get in there early and get yourself a leg. The legs go fast and they're the perfect excuse for picking up your dinner and getting to lick creamy gravy off your fingers. Second, always ~ and I mean always ~ reserve at least a ladle's worth of gravy for the end to mop up with some bread.

Finally, creamed chicken is traditionally served with mamaliga, the Romanian take on the cormeal porridge better known as polenta. I posted a recipe for mamaliga last weekend so figured that you've now perfected the technique and need this stew to serve alongside it. The quantity is easily increased to serve many (my grandmother used to feed it to hundreds at church dinners). —Nostrovia_ca

What You'll Need
  • 1 large chicken, cleaned, skinned, and cut into 8 pieces
  • 4–6 additional legs, skinned and thighs separated
  • 1 large yellow cooking onion, diced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2–3 ribs celery, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 35% or 18% cream, or a combination
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, mix together onions, garlic, celery, and carrots. Place half the vegetable mixture in an ovenproof lidded casserole. Layer chicken pieces (including neck and gizzards, if using) on top and cover with remaining vegetable mixture. Cover casserole and bake for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, cook mushrooms in a pan or skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until they begin to give up their moisture. When all their liquid has been released and they begin to brown slightly, remove them from the heat and reserve. (Cooking them separately means they don't water down the stew.)
  3. After 1 hour of cooking time, remove casserole from oven and check stew. The vegetables should be nearly cooked through, the chicken should be starting to brown, and there should be a nice amount of liquid in the pot. (If vegetables are still crisp and chicken is undercooked, cover casserole and return to oven for an additional 15–20 minutes.) Place flour in a mixing bowl and add cream while whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth. Add cream, reserved mushrooms, and paprika to stew. Cover casserole and return to oven for 1/2 hour.
  4. Remove casserole from oven and stir contents. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or dill before serving with mamaliga and/or fresh bread.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lilismom
  • WileyP
  • Nostrovia_ca
  • hemptonv

12 Reviews

hemptonv May 15, 2015
I wanted this to be better than it was...but, despite the tenderness of the chicken, we found it merely "meh". If I make again, I believe I would braise the chicken (I used only thighs), and add thyme, or tarragon. Maybe chopped tomatoes.
Vaniana February 22, 2013
It looks beautiful, you should post more romanian recipes! i just want to make a little note - the correct word in romanian is actually smantana not smetanta. :)
Sue R. March 20, 2021
Actually smetana is the correct English spelling.
Lilismom April 17, 2012

The dish was utterly fantastic. It is the best recipe I have tried in a long time.
Nostrovia_ca April 18, 2012
I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed it!
Lilismom April 16, 2012
I can't wait to cook this tommorrow!
Nostrovia_ca April 17, 2012
Hope you enjoy it, Lilismom!
Lilismom April 16, 2012
It's tommorow's dinner, sounds divine!
WileyP September 2, 2011
Yup, you're right, Jodi - Not only is this delicious, but there's enough to feed a small army, too! We could really feel the comfort in this pan of goodness, and the sauce presented shades of liquid dumplig flavor. I did make 1.5x the sauce, so there's plenty left over. I'm going to make creamed shrimp on toaqst tomorrow night with it. My guest loved this so much she recommended I serve it to the San Ignacio Supper Club!
Thanks Again!
Nostrovia_ca September 4, 2011
Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Wiley, and that it's been deemed fit for a supper club! Love that you made more sauce to use in another meal (if left to my own devices, I could pour it in a bowl and eat it like soup...). Thanks, too, for letting me know that you had good success with the recipe ~ always good to know that instructions make sense and produce the expected result. Cheers!
WileyP August 30, 2011
This recipe sounds and looks just marvelous, jodi - I'm heading to town right now to pick up some extra legs and thighs! Thanks for posting it!
Nostrovia_ca August 31, 2011
Hope you enjoyed it ~ glad to share!