Here is a family favorite for a weeknight dinner—chicken thighs, floured and browned and then baked, served with a creamy mushroom sauce. You can serve it with rice, or if you put it over egg noodles, you have something resembling a chicken stroganoff.
Years ago, when my mother was a young housewife with a husband and six rambunctious kids to feed, she taught herself how to cook from various cookbooks that were popular at the time. One of her favorite books was Elena's secrets of Mexican cooking, now long out of print, by Elena Zelayeta, published in 1958. This recipe is adapted from a recipe for Pollo con Jocoqui (Chicken with Sour Cream) in that book.
The note in the cookbook regarding this recipe is "Brides might well add this to their kitchen repertoire. It is easy to fix and never fails to make a hit." We all agree. It's a great combination, and so easy to make!
Elena's original recipe calls for a whole chicken cut into parts. We find using thighs to be easier—all the chicken pieces get cooked in the same amount of time, and we prefer the flavor of thighs to breasts. You could use whole chicken parts, or chicken breasts. If you use chicken breasts, watch the timing—the white meat of chicken breasts cooks faster than the dark meat of thighs or legs.
Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Before you start to prep, take the chicken out of the refrigerator and sprinkle all sides with about a teaspoon of Kosher salt. Salting first helps draw out the flavor in meat. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to take the chill off of the chicken.
- 3 to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (we used thighs), trimmed of excess fat
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup flour for dredging
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 small onions, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced (I use cremini with a handful of shiitakes included for more intense mushroomy flavor)
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Dredge chicken in flour:
Mix 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture.
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Brown the chicken:
Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches, place the chicken pieces in the pan, skin-side down.
The oil should be hot enough so that the chicken pieces sizzle when they are in the pan, but not so hot as to burn the chicken. You want the pieces to be lightly browned. Brown on all sides.
Bake chicken with broth in oven:
Butter a roasting pan. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan in a single layer, skin side up. Pour chicken broth over it, and bake at 350°F until the chicken pieces are cooked through (with an internal temperature of 165°F) about 25 to 30 minutes for 3 to 4 pounds of chicken thighs.
If you don't have a meat thermometer, you can check for doneness by poking the largest chicken piece with a sharp knife. If the juices run clear, not pink, the chicken is done.
Sauté onions and mushrooms:
About 20 minutes before the chicken is expected to be done, start cooking the onions and mushrooms. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are soft and translucent, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan to a bowl.
Add the mushrooms to the same pan with the crushed garlic and the thyme. Increase the heat to medium high and cook the mushrooms until they are lightly browned. Add the onions back to the pan and if you want, remove the crushed garlic clove (or keep it in, your choice).
Add sour cream and cream:
And add the sour cream and the heavy cream to the onions and mushrooms. Lower the heat. Keep warm, but do not boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve chicken with mushroom sauce:
When the chicken is done, remove from oven. Serve on a platter with the mushroom sauce spooned over it, or served on the side.
Serve with noodles or rice.
Recipe adapted by one for Pollo con Jocoqui (Chicken with Sour Cream) in Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking, published in 1958 by author Elena Zelayeta.
I know that this recipe doesn't seem typical of Mexican cooking, but Elena mentions in her book that in Mexico, for hundreds of years people have been influenced by many cuisines—especially Spanish and French.
Another note about Elena Zelayeta, she was one of the first people to publish English language cookbooks about Mexican cooking. Her books were popular in the 1940s and 50s. Elena was also blind. She went blind as an adult and after having children, yet still managed to cook her for family (she knew where everything was in her kitchen), and write cookbooks that became classics.