When my new girlfriend (now wife) was told that my family was serving traditional Romanian ‘Creamed Chicken’ as part of the holiday meal she felt a little nauseated in anticipation as she imagined what that might taste like. As she politely tried a small portion at supper it immediately became a ‘Where has this been all my life?!?’ experience for her. Simple food made well is some of the best food you can have.
Creamed Chicken is known as Ciulama de Pui in Romanian. This warm creamy dish served over potatoes, mamaliga (polenta) or with buttered bread tastes wonderful served on a cool evening.
My grandmother would cut a whole chicken into pieces for this dish. Over the years I have played around with boneless and or skinless chicken and it is my opinion that bones and skin are important to the final flavour. I am not however a big fan of picking around bones on my plate or skin that has been reduced to a jelly consistency.
For this reason I recommend browning the skin well. Grandma browned the skin until it was a light golden where I take it all the way to brown. The browned texture is better for me when simmered in the cream. I also recommend simmering the chicken in the cream along with the bones. The bones can be removed before serving. In this recipe I recommend browning the meat with the bones in and then separating the bones out after but before simmering. I find removing the bones at this point is easier than when the meat is raw but the choice is yours - like I said, serve it with the bones in if you want.
In this recipe I have used chicken thighs. They are easy to debone and are a nice mix of light and dark meat. You can use different chicken parts or cut a whole chicken up like my grandmother.
- 6 Chicken thighs (bone-in skin-on)
- 500ml Whipping Cream
- 500ml Chicken Stock
- 1 Medium Onion
- 4 Large mushrooms
- 3 Cloves of Garlic
- 1 Cup Flour
- 3 Tbsp Butter
- 1/3 Cup Oil
- 1/2 Tsp Paprika
- Parsley, dill or green onions to garnish
This recipe serves approximately three to four people who are willing to show a little restraint. I won’t judge you if you eat it all by yourself.
Preparation time: Approximately one hour
Roughly chop the onion, garlic and mushrooms.
Place the chicken in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken with flour.
Heat a large pot on a medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the onions are transparent then remove the onions, garlic and mushrooms from the pot and set aside in a bowl.
Turn the heat under to pot to a medium-high and add the oil. When the oil is heated add the floured chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides to a golden brown. The point is to caramelize for some flavour and to give the skin a little texture before it is cooked in the cream so that it is less like a jelly. You are not necessarily trying to cook the chicken all the way through.
Once the chicken has been browned remove it from the pot and drain it on a paper towel. I like to remove the bones at this point and chop the meat into pieces. As discussed, removing the bones and chopping the chicken meat is entirely your choice.
Wipe the extra oil out of the bottom of the pot with a paper towel but don’t remove the brown bits.
Return the pot to a medium-high heat. Add to the pot the onions, garlic and mushrooms that you had set aside earlier. Add in the chicken and bones (if you removed them).
Once the contents of the pot are heated add in the cream and chicken stock. Bring to a boil while stirring then reduce heat and simmer uncovered.
Add paprika. Stir occasionally. Reduce the liquid by half. The liquid should have the consistency of a gravy, not soupy.
Season with salt and pepper near the end of the simmering to prevent the seasoning from becoming too concentrated.
Garnish with parsley, dill or chopped green onions. Serve with potatoes, bread and or mamaliga (polenta). I think that pickles and olives make a nice counter-point to the creaminess of this dish so having some on the table with the meal would be a great accessory.