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Sunday 9 January 2011

Charlie Bigham's Breton Chicken

I can't say I was aware of the name Charlie Bigham before I happened to see this in a shop with a big '1/3 OFF' sticker on it. It's a pre-packaged centrepiece for a meal for two ("Perfect for two," it says, "Serve with a wink") described thusly:
"Fresh chicken breast in a handmade creamy mornay sauce with cheese leeks, lardons, Dijon mustard and fresh parsley. Perfect!"

It comes in two sachets - one, the chicken, bacon, leek, etc., the other being the creamy sauce. The first step is to stir-fry the meat and veg for about ten minutes, then the sauce is added, brought to the boil, and then simmered for a couple of minutes before serving. The packaging additionally suggests that this can be served with "new potatoes, mash, or even rice", but I must confess that I added nothing - it had been sitting in my fridge for a while, and I was eating alone, so I figured any additions would just increase wastage. It's a fairly large portion, after all.

It's certainly easy to cook, though... with the chicken and bacon pieces sizzling nicely as the leeks, etc. slowly brown. I did find the chicken had clubbed together in the packaging, and needed a lot of work to separate it all so it would cook properly, but it wasn't a great deal of hassle. Once the sauce went in, and I caught the scent of the meal to come, I was really counting the seconds till it was ready.

And the flavour fully lives up to the smell. It's a little sharp - perhaps the Cheddar was stronger than I'd normally choose, not being a fan of cheese, particularly - but it all comes together very well. The fact that it's stir-fried together, rather than baked together, or cooked entirely separately, with the sauce added at the end, serves to intermingle the flavours very well - the chicken picks up on the sauce, and the sauce picks up on just about everything else. The chicken remained tender, the leek managed to stay reasonably crisp and, while the bacon lardons suffered from the usual malaise - rather too much fat for my liking - it made a nice addition to the meal.

I did find the whole thing rather too rich, personally, but I suppose that's why you're not supposed to serve it without some addition, and I can see why potato of some form or another would be preferable. That said, plain rice would certainly work quite well. Either would help to soak up the sauce and, served as intended - as a meal for two - this would probably be fantastic. Eating it all on my own, I regret to say there was a fair bit of wastage... though it wasn't through want of trying to finish. Good stuff, but too much and too rich for my palate.

Must keep an eye out for more Bigham's stuff, though... The packaging is certainly unique, but perhaps a little over-the-top - almost selling a lifestyle rather than just the food.

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