This unforgettable cream sauce for chicken is a standout with apple brandy, whole grain Dijon, traditional Dijon, shallots, and sweet pecans!
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Chicken In A Brandy Pecan Cream Sauce
Every element that is added to a cream sauce is added before the cream. And the elements to which I refer are very basic; butter, onions or shallots, herbs, liquors, and flavoring elements such as mustards or or hot sauce. The flavor the cream takes on is all based on what order a recipe’s supporting ingredients are added to the sauté, and to what extent they are cooked. A good example of this would caramelizing onions in brown butter before adding cognac and then cream. Four very rich layers that each undergo a unique process in the pan, then overlap one another in the final product to create one dynamic experience.
Heavy cream is that pièce de résistance ingredient added last that elevates every ingredient that hit the pan before it.
Sometimes I think I was born already knowing how to sauté. It is the method of cooking I am most comfortable with. It’s also the method of cooking I am a absolutely an expert in.
Sautéing is a method of heating food which involves a very hot skillet and only a little bit of fat (butter, olive oil). This technically makes it a loose form of dry-heat preparation.
Because so little fat is used, the surface area of the food cooks very quickly, browning it and often slightly scorching it. Complex layers of flavor automatically develop when this “flash in the pan” style is employed.
That scorch and all of those tiny browned bits in the bottom of the skillet are called fond. And fond is worth its weight in gold. You read that right. Fond is where all of the flavors in a layered recipe like this cream sauce for chicken begins.
How This Recipe Came About…
Would you believe that taking an inventory of my liquor cabinet inspired this dish? I had pushed a rather full bottle of an apple flavored brandy to the rear of my cabinet. Tisk, tisk!
Once unearthed, and because it’s already October, it seems like I should be experimenting with some of those rich flavors that are able to be coaxed using interesting liquors. Um, apple flavored brandy…hello?
Boneless skinless chicken breasts are a two-night-per-week rotation here at my house, mainly because to sauté a chicken breast means having dinner on the table in short order. I’ve added everything to chicken breast sautés. I never tire of trying new ingredients with chicken breasts or chicken thighs for that matter.
Sun dried tomatoes, earthy mushrooms, garlic cloves, lemon, and various varieties of cheese. Parmesan is of course my all time favorite because it’s cheap and I nearly always have a block to grate from on hand. Heavy cream is that pièce de résistance ingredient added last that elevates every ingredient that hit the pan before it.
Do You Have What’s Needed For Chicken In A Brandy Pecan Cream Sauce? Check The List!
boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
shallots or sweet onions
heavy whipping cream
whole grain Dijon mustard
traditional Dijon mustard
How To Make A Cream Sauce For Chicken?
In the into, I mentioned that any flavor heavy cream is intended to take on is all based on what order the supporting ingredients are added to the sauté, and to what extent they are cooked.
The third important point to mention here is “heat.” To properly sauté, you need a higher than usual temperature in order to cook and brown the contents in the skillet very quickly.
But before I jump ahead to the cook, I need to first explain the preparation. For an absolutely delicious chicken dish, you must start with thin chicken breasts. Take your best kitchen knife and slice right through each breast lengthwise while the breast lays flat.
Next, place a breast half in a plastic freezer bag and work on pounding it to 1/4-inch thickness with the flat side of a meat mallet or a rolling pin. Repeat with each half until you’ve got yourself a bunch of skinny chicken medallions.
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Salt with several healthy pinches Kosher salt and some black pepper. Remember, SEASON EARLY IN A RECIPE, NOT AT THE END.
Like most sauce recipes, the chicken must be cooked in order for the sauce to have a base. It all goes back to that lesson on fond just above.
I’m aiming for those browned bits in the bottom of my non-stick or cast iron skillet. Chicken recipes which get a sauce require the chicken to flavor that sauce. And this is layer number one.
The remainder of the recipe is executed following the chicken browning. One or two ingredients at a time. All in a specific and strategic order and with varying degrees of heat. And at the end, in goes the cream and up goes the heat to thicken the creamy ensemble.
One skillet. Easy. Once you master sautéing, you will love this method for food prep. Who says dinner has to be hard?
What If I Do Not Have Apple Brandy?
Easy. Brandy and cognac are basically interchangeable. If you have a unique cognac, replace the brandy in equal measure with the cognac. Bourbon is also an option, again in equal measure.
If you prefer to not introduce alcohol at all, use apple juice in lieu of the apple flavored brandy.
Do I Have To Use Pecans?
No, and here is why I listed prosciutto as an optional ingredient in the list at the top of this page. I often make this dish for my Mom who has an issue with nuts and seeds. She loves them, but they do not love her. Often, I will assemble this dish using chopped prosciutto to replace the pecans.
And now you are asking what the heck the connection is in terms of flavor from nuts to cured ham, aren’t you? THE SUGAR.
Cured meats offer up a game-changing bevy of flavor when sautéed to a crisp. YUP. CHARRED. Well, almost. I resurrect the “crispy” with the apple brandy and you’d be shocked at the magnificent aroma. AMAZING!
So, to get back to the original question regarding the use of pecans, again, no. And you do not have to use prosciutto in their place either, it’s just an option I am offering in case you are worried about how the whole darn thing is gonna taste!
How Long Does Chicken In A Brandy Pecan Cream Sauce Take To Prepare?
Figure 6 to 8 minutes for each chicken medallion, about 3 minutes per side at medium high heat give or take. Depending on the size of your skillet and how many medallions must be sautéed, do the math accordingly.
For the cream sauce, you must save about 35 minutes aside for developing the layers of flavor and simmering the sauce. If you are following my recipe and using four chicken breast halves for a four-serving dish, plan on 55 minutes to one hour.
Modifying The Norm To Make It Not Entirely Average…
One of my most loved and requested dinners when friends come over is a creamy garlic chicken where sautéed chicken that I float in a garlic cream sauce is spooned over mashed potatoes. If you are a garlic lover like me, consider partially roasting a handful of large garlic cloves before adding them to your skillet where you’ve established a fond from the chicken.
Use bourbon or chicken broth to deglaze the skillet after the cloves have caramelized. Complimentary supporting ingredients might include a rosemary flavored olive oil, chopped fresh onion or tomatoes, Worcestershire for depth, and fresh thyme. This is one such sauce chicken works well with.
If wanting to build upon the recipe card as written herein and make it a bit more not entirely average, consider the addition of sliced green olives or a handful of capers sautéed immediately following the chicken.
Another ingredient to consider might be very finely chopped swollen golden raisins. Just a tablespoon added to the skillet just before the cream would set this dish up as a sweet and savory. I’ve done it. IT IS FABULOUS!
Can A Cream Sauce For Chicken Be Made Ahead?
Yes. And here is where that “optional” prosciutto comes in handy. While the cream sauce may be made in advance by up to one day, the chicken should not. Unless you want tough chicken that it. And because the chicken would not be available to flavor its own sauce, another ingredient must serve as a stand-in.
Chopped prosciutto, smoked bacon, crumbled mild turkey or chicken sausage are all excellent stand-ins for creating that foundation that the sauce will be built upon. Three to five ounces of any of the aforementioned will be plenty to establish those clever browned bits.
Once the sauce is complete, allow the entire skillet to cool before adding the sauce to an airtight container and refrigerating until ready to use.
Can A Cream Sauce For Chicken Be Frozen?
Cream based sauces may be frozen as long as they are spooned into an airtight container with a lid. You can also double wrap first with plastic film and then wrap again in aluminum.
To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight. Re-heat in a skillet over medium to medium low heat until the sauce begins to steam and bubble.
What To Serve With Chicken In A Brandy Pecan Cream Sauce?
Think carbs! My Cheesy Mashed Potato Casserole or my Wild Rice Casserole With Butternut And Cranberries are excellent starters. And I personally think my Oven Roasted Spaghetti Squash With Sherry And Cream would be absolutely delicious!
What To Drink With Chicken In A Brandy Pecan Cream Sauce?
For this dish, I have to start by mentioning the best beers to pair. Why? Beer seems to bring out the nuances in food especially once that food has changed its state during cooking. Again, it all has to do with the sugars and what gets left behind post heat.
My first choice would be a stout. It’s uncanny how stouts coax the nuttiness of braises and caramelized ingredients. A stout teases our brains when paired with both white and brown savory sauces, too.
And because of their pronounced hops aroma, a pilsner is a great runner up to stout. They could not be more different in their integrity, but the one attribute that both stouts and pilsners share – bitterness – allows them to work well with fatty marbled meats, and offer a pleasing contrast with sweet and savory sauces.
Now for wine…consult your wine steward on hunting down a full-bodied Chardonnay with buttery flavors and vanilla, butterscotch, and oak notes. Well chilled this is a perfect pairing if ever there was one!
If You Like This Recipe…
…you might also like:
- The Original Chicken Arthur Avenue
- Chicken Milanese
- Crispy Chicken with Herbed Carolina Gold Rice & Scratch Pan Gravy
- Chicken Française, An Italian-American Signature Dish
Chicken Française, An Italian-American Signature Dish
Chicken In A Brandy Pecan Cream Sauce
- large heavy-bottomed non-stick sauté pan
- meat mallet
- plastic freezer bag
- Kitchen tongs
Ingredients for Chicken In A Brandy Pecan Cream Sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced in half lengthwise to create 2 flat halves each
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 – 3 medium shallots may substitute a small sweet onion
- 3 tablespoons apple brandy
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons parsley fresh, chopped
- 1 heaping tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- 1 heaping tablespoon traditional Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup pecans some chopped, some left whole
- 2 – 3 ounces prosciutto chopped
- Prepare the chicken breasts by laying each flat. Lay one hand flat atop the breast. Using a sharp kitchen knife, carefully slice the breast lengthwise to create two halves from each breast.
- Place one of the halves inside a plastic freezer bag. Do not seal. Use the flat side of a meat mallet or a rolling pin to flatten the cutlets to 1/4-inch thickness. Repeat with each cutlet. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper on both sides.
- Add the butter to a large non-stick skillet. Heat the skillet over medium high heat until the butter is melted. Use a spatula to move the butter around the skillet to coat the surface. Add chicken cutlets. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to work in batches.
- Cook each cutlet for 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Adjust heat to keep it high enough to cook the chicken quickly, but not too high to burn.
- Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with aluminum to keep warm. Reduce the heat.
If using prosciutto, add now and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes before adding the shallots.
- Add the shallots to the pan and sauté over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the apple brandy all at once. Swirl around in the skillet to coat the shallots and return to the heat. Add both mustards and whisk to combine. Add the whipping cream and the parsley and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat one final time to medium low. Return the chicken cutlets and any accumulated juices from the plate to the pan. Add the pecans. Simmer on medium low for 10 minutes turning the chicken once during the simmer.
- To serve, plate a chicken cutlet atop a bed of mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, or other. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.
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