Creamy chicken with mushrooms and leeks is my favourite easy dinner - chicken pieces are cooked in creamy sauce, with caramelised chopped leeks and mushrooms. Serve on its own or with plain pasta.
How to make chicken less boring?
Chicken is rather boring. Admittedly it is very versatile as it will take on any seasoning you can think of and nobody tends to dislike it. Hot and spicy, creamy and cheesy, roast or stir fried, chicken is the original food canvas.
Still, I can’t say it is terribly exciting, and chicken breast fillet is the most boring of its parts. Unimaginatively cooked, it is usually dry and crumbly and devoid of flavour.
But it’s easy to cook, so I like everybody else (except vegetarians) often do. In the past my go-to chicken breast dish was really boring: the whole fillet roasted and sliced into a salad. Until I came across a recipe for creamy chicken, cut into chunks and cooked in a creamy sauce.
I have long forgotten the source of the recipe (apologies, Original Creamy Chicken Inventor), nor do I remember what the original flavour was because ever since I started experimenting with different variants.
That’s because this is a chicken dish matrix, a chicken template, a chicken archetype. Basically, you can chuck in any chopped-up vegetables, and the kind of seasoning you like or think will go well with chicken and cream (which is just about EVERYTHING) and it will work.
The recipe below is my favourite variation: with leeks and mushrooms, tarragon and coriander.
How to cook creamy chicken?
It is a one-pan dish, which is another great thing about it. And it’s super easy.
The chicken should be cut into bite-sized pieces or strips. It’s always good to sprinkle any meat with salt as much in advance as you can, to enhance the flavour and texture, but since it’s chicken not 28-days aged beef, the rule isn’t stringent.
Browning the chicken won’t take long at all and don’t fret it isn’t absolutely cooked through – it will be cooking in the sauce again at the end of the process. When sufficiently browned, scoop the chicken out and set aside.
No need to clean the pan as the leeks can go straight in, with a little butter for flavour. I like the leeks sliced quite thickly, so there’s a bite to them, and they’re lovely if caramelised in places. To achieve that, let them sit in the pan without stirring, over rather high heat, for a minute or so before the mushrooms join them.
And then it’s just the matter of adding the herbs and pouring in the cream. Again, it’s good to leave the cream to bubble vigorously over high heat for a spell, so it cooks down and reduces. And when the chicken returns to the pan, the heat can be turned down to simmer and the thickness of the sauce adjusted by adding a splash of water or leaving the dish to a cook little longer.
I like it best when the sauce is much reduced and just coats the chicken and vegetable pieces like a creamy glaze. But if you’re going to serve it with pasta, you may well add a large splash of the pasta cooking water to loosen it up.
So many options! You can follow the recipe swapping leeks and mushrooms for spinach and garlic, roughly diced tomatoes, even oranges and raisins, sliced fennel and gorgonzola, simply Parmesan or nothing but lots of tarragon and grainy mustard.
Adjust the cooking time for the vegetables accordingly: spinach needs no time at all in the pan, while fennel will take a while to soften. Add more cream if you prefer it saucy, replace cream with coconut milk for non-dairy versions and swap double cream for soured to cut down on calories.
More easy chicken recipes
Chicken breast and vegetable tray bake – it’s good for a weeknight dinner and impressive enough for easy entertaining.
Lemon chilli chicken in creamy sauce, zingy and lemony, made with chicken breast strips, ancho chillies and whole lemon quarters. Best served over pasta or plain rice.
Chicken saltimbocca is a twist on the Italian veal dish but it’s just as tasty: chicken breast, Parma ham and sage leaves in a crispy package.
More leek recipes
Raw and thinly sliced, with cucumber and radish for company and the lightest mayonnaise dressing, leek slaw is vibrant and healthy.
Leeks go as well with fish as with chicken: try halibut with braised leeks, easy, tasty and impressive.
In the season of wild garlic, make sure you use it at least once with creamy leeks, it’s a divine combination.