Celestial Chicken In Velvet Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Four


Appears in

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1969

  • About

This is one of the simplest of dishes to prepare and it is also one of the most delicious. It is heavy with cream and is not designed for people who worry about calories. This is precisely the way this dish would be prepared by a celebrated French chef. It is the recipe, in fact, of a celebrated French chef.


  • A 3½-pound chicken, cleaned and trussed with strings by the butcher
  • 1 onion, peeled and studded with 1 clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 carrots, scraped and cut in half
  • 2 ribs celery, washed and cut in half
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Salt to taste
  • Water to cover
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 egg yolk, slightly beaten (save white for other use)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Place the trussed chicken in a kettle large enough to hold it comfortably. If the kettle is too large it will take too much water to cook the chicken.

  2. Add the onion, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, carrots, celery, garlic, salt, and water to cover. The water level should be about ½ inch over the top of the chicken. Do not cover but bring to a boil and let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  3. Transfer the chicken to a warm platter and untruss it. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil to keep it warm. Strain the stock and put it back on the stove to boil until ready for use, 10 to 15 minutes. The stock will keep boiling and reducing and becoming more concentrated in flavor.

  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour, using a wire whisk. Add cups of the boiling chicken stock while stirring vigorously with the whisk. When the mixture is thickened and smooth, continue to simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. The remaining stock in the kettle may be refrigerated for another use, such as soup or the base for another sauce.

  5. Add the cream to the sauce and stir well. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently with the whisk. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the yolk, stirring rapidly. Add the lemon juice and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon a little of the sauce over the chicken and serve the rest separately. The ideal accompaniment for this dish is rice with bay leaf.