Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin

By • February 24, 2015 55 Comments

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Author Notes: The foolproof chicken recipe to get you through winter is anything but bland, boring, and sensible. Note that, as Olney says in his headnote, "The acidity of the white wine and the lemon cause the cheese custard to curdle in the cooking, creating a texture that, personally, I find pleasant but may not please everyone." I've found that the extent of the curdling depends on the size and juiciness of the chicken (and lemon), the pan, and the length of cooking time, but it's always been delicious. Adapted slightly from Simple French Food (Atheneum, 1974).Genius Recipes

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Serves 4

For the chicken

  • One 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-pound fryer chicken, cut up (or use all legs and thighs, or all breasts)
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large handful finely crumbled stale, but not dried, bread, crusts removed
  • 1/3 cup white wine

For the cheese custard

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Salt, pepper
  • 3 ounces freshly grated Gruyère
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon and deglazing liquid
  1. Heat the oven to 400° F. Salt the chicken pieces and cook them in the butter over medium heat until nearly done and lightly colored on all sides -- about 20 minutes, adding the breasts only after the first 10 minutes. Transfer them to a gratin dish of a size to just hold them, arranged side by side.
  2. Cook the crumbs in the chicken's cooking butter until slightly crisp and only slightly colored -- still blond, stirring. Put them aside (don't worry if a few remain in the pan) and deglaze the pan with the white wine, reducing it by about half.
  3. Whisk together the cream, egg yolks, seasonings, and cheese, then incorporate the lemon and the deglazing liquid. Spoon or pour this mixture evenly over the chicken pieces, sprinkle the surface with the breadcrumbs, and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the surface is nicely colored and the custard is firm.

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