Chicken with an Anchovy and Garlic Cream Sauce

The Italians seem to recognize the true worth of anchovies. This recipe relies on their wonderful ability to turn to a cream over the heat. The garlic, cooked whole, adds a mild sweetness. The dish is delicious served with a bowl of tagliatelle or new potatoes and a crisp green vegetable.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium skinless chicken breast fillets
  • 5 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 5-6 fresh bay leaves
  • 300 ml/½ pint white wine
  • strained juice of 1 lemon
  • 50 g/2 oz tin anchovy fillets
  • 300 ml/½ pint double cream
  • handful fresh parsley
  • salt
  • black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Slice each chicken breast lengthways into 3. Arrange the slices in a single layer in a gratin dish or a shallow roasting pan. Put the garlic cloves among them and also the bay leaves, some under the chicken and some on top. Heat the wine and lemon juice in a saucepan until bubbling, then pour it over the chicken breasts, cover the dish or pan tightly with foil and cook on the centre shelf of the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the garlic feels soft when you stick a small knife into a clove. Then, using a slotted spatula, take out the chicken pieces and arrange them in a large, fairly shallow serving dish. Cover loosely with foil and leave in a very low oven to keep warm while you make the sauce.

Empty the anchovies and their oil into the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. Stir over simmering water until the anchovies seem to melt into a brown cream.

Take the bay leaves from the cooking liquid and discard. Pop the cloves of garlic out of their skins into a sieve, then rub them through the sieve into the anchovy mixture. Next, pour the chicken poaching liquid into a saucepan and bubble fiercely over a high heat until well reduced and almost syrupy. Stir in the anchovy and garlic mixture and the double cream and bring to the boil again for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with black pepper and some salt if necessary. Finely chop the parsley, stir it into the sauce and pour the sauce over the chicken — if the chicken has been in the oven for some time and created more liquid, add this to the sauce first.

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