You may be familiar with Hunters Chicken. Normally found in your common eatery, it more often than not consists of a chicken breast topped with bacon, BBQ sauce and cheese. Delightfully naughty and totally unrefined. However, there is another Hunters chicken you may or may not have heard of – French Hunters Chicken aka Chicken Chasseur, and it may become your new weekend favourite.
Chicken Chasseur is a classic french dish cooked in a cast iron casserole dish (or dutch oven). It is a brown chicken stock based sauce with mushrooms, shallots, cognac, white wine, tomato paste and fresh herbs – best served with a creamy, rich mashed potato. It really is night and day different to the hunters chicken we’re used to here in the UK. When done right, the sauce is to die for.
There are many variations for this dish, to which have been tested times. This one certainly ticks all the boxes, with a shout out to the French Cooking Academy on YouTube for the recipe here – it’s sublime. If you haven’t come across his channel yet, make sure you check it out. It’s all things in French cooking broken down into easy to digest videos that teach you how to cook properly, and if you want to take it further he even has a fully fledge cookery course you can take!
How you'll be Cooking the dish
This recipe is very traditional and utilises some classic techniques like stock making, flambé and Beurre Manié. So if you’re looking for a classic dish where you can learn some key cookery skills you’ve come to the right place!
What sets this apart is the enhanced stock you make for the sauce. It is taken to a totally new level by using the carcass and wings from the butchered whole chicken, browning them and simmering in the off-the-shelf chicken/beef stock. This technique will really change how you make sauces going forward, and shows you just how the scraps can really transform a dish – in short, never throw anything away, it could have flavour! It so important to get a good golden brown colour on your meat as this is the only way your stock will have great depth to it. The sticky brown bits on the bottom of the pan, often called fond but scientifically called the Maillard reaction, are also extremely important as these aid the body of the stock too. Never ever, and we repeat, never ever wipe out or scrape out the bottom of a pan with fond. You would be getting rid of some seriously great flavour.
To get this dish to the correct balance it is essential to Flambé the Cognac in the pan. If you’ve never done a Flambé before, be careful. The flame ignites fast and large, it then quickly dies down into a blue flicker about 10cm tall and lasts for around 20-30seconds. Make sure the extractor fan is off and the surroundings are free from flammable objects – it is often best to do this off the hob itself by placing the pan on a heat proof mat and lighting away from where the flame could reach. Just be careful, and make sure it’s safe to ignite it. But all in all, enjoy some theatre in the kitchen!
Key steps to note
- Instead of buying pieces of chicken, buy a whole chicken. Butcher the chicken into 4 pieces – two breasts and two legs. Then use the wings and the carcass to enhance your sauce.
- When cooking your chicken pieces ensure they are nice and browned – but not burnt (would be turning black). The key is to have a good medium high heat, but not too high. If the chicken is sticking to the bottom of the pan when you try and turn it, it’s not ready yet. Be patient and when it’s ready then chicken will come up a lot easier.
- Use a good quality stock (or make your own). Do not use a stock cube or a stock pot – they have their time and place and it’s not in sauce making. If you do not make your own buy a good quality off the shelf stock such as Heston’s Waitrose Chicken Stock.
- Ensure you flambé the Cognac to prevent a bitter acidic taste to your sauce.
- Use fresh herbs not dried. The extra dimension brought from fresh, good quality herbs is unparalleled. This can make or break the dish.
- Your dish is only as good as your ingredients. A £3 basic whole chicken from a generic UK supermarket is not going to be as delicious as a £20 properly reared, corn fed, truly free range chicken. Chicken from the average supermarket is not how chicken should taste. The corn fed chicken from The Butchery Ltd is a very good example, try this and it will ruin cheap supermarket chicken.
There are a few moving parts to this dish which may seem daunting. But if you follow the below recipe to a T it will be easier than first thought and something the whole family will be craving time and time again.
French Hunters Chicken - Chicken Chasseur
- Cast Iron Casserole Dish
- Stock pot / large saucepan
- 1 Large Whole Chicken Buy the best quality you can
- 1 Carrot unpealed, chopped into chunks
- 1 Celery chopped into chunks
- 1 White onion quartered
- 500 ml Ready made beef stock No stock cubes
- 1 Bunch Fresh Thyme
- 1 Bunch Fresh Rosemary
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 Cloves Garlic halved
- 100 ml Cognac Bourbon would work if you don't have this
- 100 ml White wine
- 15 g Tomato Paste
- 150 g Chestnut Mushrooms brushed and quartered
- 50 g Shallots diced
- Flour for dusting the chicken
- Oil for cooking the chicken and shallots/mushrooms
- 1 Handful Freshly Chopped Parsely
- 1 Handful Freshly Chopped Tarragon can subsitite for another fresh herb such as Thyme if you can't find it. Do not use dried.
- 1 Beurre Manie 10g flour & 10g butter
- Butcher the chicken. Cut it the chicken into leg pieces and breast pieces keeping the skin on. Reserve the wings and carcass for the stock, and using a sharp knife cut the carcass into pieces so it can brown in a pan. To really elevate the dish, brine the chicken breast and legs overnight in a 5% brine. This will ensure perfectly seasoned chicken.
- Peel and chop all of your vegetables. The carrot, onion, celery and garlic should be grouped together into one bowl ready for stock making. The mushrooms into one bowl and the shallots into another.
- Measure out your wine and cognac and set aside
- Prepare your flour dusting area. Scatter flour generously onto a clean baking tray.
- Prepare your herbs. Bunch together Thyme, Rosemary and Bay for stock. Chop parsely and tarragon (if using) for the sauce.
- Place a stock pot on a high heat (but not the highest setting) and add a glug of oil to the pan. When the oil is up to temp (the meat sizzles as it hits the pan), drop the chicken pieces in so they all sit on the bottom of the pan. Do not crowd the pan.
- Leave the pieces of meat to brown in the pan for roughly 5 or 6 minutes. Turn the pieces one they are browned nicely. Note if the chicken is not ready to be turned it will stick to the pan. Once the chicken has been browned enough it will release from the botton.
- Cook the chicken for a futher 5 mins until the other side is browned well and there is some fond on the bottom of the pan. Be carefull not to burn anything here otherwise it will ruin the taste of the stock.
- Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic to the pan and sweat down for 10 mins.
- Add the tomato paste and combine with the meat and vegetables. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the beef/chicken stock to this pan and bring to a simmer.
- Add the rosemary, thyme and bay to the liquid. Cover with a lid and leave for at least 1 hour on a light simmer. Best left for as long as possible, 2 hours is a good balance between time and flavour.
- Once the stock has had its time (1-2 hours), discard the chicken pieces and sieve the liquid twice to create a smooth stock.
- Add the seived liquid to a clean saucepan. Put on a medium heat and simmer to reduce down by at least half. Taste the reduced stock and check seasoning and intensity - it should be salty and have full body. If it's lacking body, reduce down by further 25% and taste. If it's really alcking body, you probably haven't browned the chicken enough. You can save this by adding something like a knorr stock pot (maybe half) to the reduced sauce.
- Thicken the sauce with a Beurre manié. Equal parts flour and softened butter made into a small dough - 10g butter and 10g flour will work. Ensure this it brought to the boil to cook out the flour. A minute or two should suffice.
- The main liquid for the sauce is now complete. Set aside.
- Flour the chicken breast and legs. Place each piece of meat, one at a time, into the baking tray full of flour and cover generously. Remove any excess flour by holding the piece of meat in air the air and tap it. Season each side with a touch of salt (if you have not brined).
- Place the casserole dish on a high (but not max) heat. Add a glug of olive oil. Add the floured chicken pieces in the pan skin sided down - they should sizzle as soon as they hit the pan.
- Allow the chicken to brown on the skin side for 5 mintues, you do not need to move them. At first they will stick to the bottom but after 5 minutes will become ready to turn. Turn after 5 minutes to brown the underside.
- Put the lid on the dish and put the chicken in a pre heated oven at 180 degrees (fan assisted) for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes (or at 70 degrees) remvove the breasts. Place in a warm dish and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Cook the legs for a further 10 minutes (or until the thigh meat reaches 80 degrees) and add to the warm foil covered dish with the breasts. Let rest while you finish the sauce Chasseur.
- Any remaining juices from the casserole dish should be added to the stock. Do not wipe the pan - this is added flavour for your sauce.
- In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, heat some oil on a medium heat. Sautee the mushrooms until they take on a darker brown colour and release their water. They shopuld half in size.
- Add the shallots and allow to sweat for a couple minutes - they don't take long.
- Deglaze the pan with the Cognac and flambe - set it alight to burn the Alcohol off. When doing this, make sure it is safe, the extractor fan is off and the surroundings are clear of fammable objects. Reduce this down until almost syrup like.
- Add the white wine and reduce down by 75%.
- Add the freshly made enhanced stock to the mushroom and shallot mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook with for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce has the perfect depth.
- Taste and check the seasoning - add salt if necessary.
- Finish with a 10g nob of butter to create a shine to the sauce and sprinkle in the fresh herbs. Reserve some herbs for finshing.
- In a serving dish add 90% of the sauce. Then lay the chicken pieces on top. Drizzle over the remaining sauce and soem extra herbs.
- Serve in the middle of the table, best accompanied by mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables.