Weeknight Wondermeal: Lolita’s Creamy Poached Chicken and Smoked Ham Hash


DSCN4382Although it’s relatively warm here in Cambridge right now (anything above 20° F in New England in January is remarkable, and it’s been in the 40′s this week!), tonight still demanded a soothingly warm meal.  I was poking around online the other day when I came across this listing of NYC’s 20 most iconic dishes on Eater.com; the 21 Club’s “Chicken Hash” jumped out at me almost immediately.  It sounded both super simple and supremely elegant, as well as certainly tasty, so I decided to give it a whirl at home.  I honestly can’t pay $37 a plate for dinner these days – it’s just not in the budget – and frankly unless the 21 Club adds gold nuggets to theirs I can’t imagine why they charge so much.  I spent less than $20 for us both, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!  After Lolitafying it somewhat with the addition of some chopped ham, some shallots and celery, and subbing the gruyere cheese with a blend of cheeses already in my fridge, Claytonious and I dove into this piping hot dish with enthusiastic gusto.  All it needed was a biscuit for sopping…

DSCN4366

Lolita’s Creamy Poached Chicken and Smoked Ham Hash

1 lb chicken breast
1 qt chicken or turkey stock
1/2 lb diced cooked smoked ham
2 celery sticks
1 shallot
1/2 cup flour
1 stick butter
1/4 – 1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups grated cheese: a blend of fontina, monterey jack, and parmigiano reggiano
1 pinch fresh grated nutmeg
sea salt, cracked black pepper

I started by poaching my chicken breasts in the stock for about 20 minutes, or until they were fully cooked through.  I guess I could have taken a picture of this, but I thought I’d let my breasts bathe in privacy.  Once they were cooked, I removed them from the stock – reserving that for later – and let them cool before dicing the chicken into modest little cubes.

DSCN4367Although the recipe I found for the 21 Club’s dish didn’t call for these aromatics, I thought they couldn’t hurt, especially if I minced the celery and shallot very finely.  I rejected the idea of a true mirepoix by adding carrot as well, since I didn’t want the orange to color the sauce.

DSCN4370In my non-stick wok, I first melt all my butter before removing all but about a half tablespoon to sauté the veggies in.  I do this on low heat until they’ve just turned translucent.

DSCN4369The rest of the melted butter gets added to the flour in a small bowl, where I mix it together thoroughly to form a thick sludge.

DSCN4373I strain all the foam from my poaching liquid before adding it to the sauteed veggies and bringing it to a boil.  I drop 1 tablespoon of the butter/flour mixture to the bubbling brew at a time, whisking well between each addition.

DSCN4376By the time it’s all added, my sauce has thickened considerably, but I let this boil over low heat for about 5 minutes to make sure all the flour has cooked properly.

DSCN4377I goes my sherry.  I honestly didn’t measure this – I just sort of dribbled a little, then a little more, then a dash more.  Lolita has an innate sense of measurement.  If you don’t however, I venture to guess no more than 1/2 cup is all you need.  I whisked this in well.

DSCN4378I added my cream next, whisking that in, too.

DSCN4379Then I added my cheese and let it all melt and incorporate – about 3-4 minutes.

DSCN4380I seasoned with salt, pepper, and my grated nutmeg.  Once it’s all well blended, I remove my mornay sauce from the heat…

DSCN4381Before folding in my chicken and ham and mixing well.  I transfer the mixture to two monkey dishes before garnishing them with a little more cheese and tossing them under the broiler in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and starts to brown at the edges.

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Talk about rich and satisfying!  The balance between the sweetness from the sherry, the silky tender chicken and unctuous ham, and the oozing stringy cheese was absolutely perfect, and with some freshly baked biscuits (yes, I got these out of a can — so sue me) to dip and dunk and slather up all that delicious sauce, this was a dish forged in heaven.  Or in Manhattan which, gastronomically speaking, is kind of a heaven on earth.  $20, about 30 minutes (sans the time to poach the chicken), and you, too, can experience nirvana.

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