Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Inspired by the column, the Big Little Recipes cookbook is available now.
Since the 1930s, canned cream of mushroom soup has been a shortcut for all sorts of meals, from green bean casserole to beef stroganoff to shepherd's pie. And while it's hard to beat the convenience of a can — let's be real, you can't — this recipe comes awfully close.
The sauce needs only three ingredients. And yes, two of those are cream and mushrooms. And no, half-and-half or whole milk cannot be substituted. It is called cream of mushroom. This is what we came for.
Play around with the mushroom type if you'd like, but I'm convinced that baby bellas (aka cremini mushrooms) are the sweet spot. Their flavor digs deeper than white buttons, while their price point is less than half that of oysters.
Which comes in handy here because we are using a lot of mushrooms — a full pound. This might seem excessive coupled with a pound of chicken breast. And that's the point. It yields a savory, earthy cream sauce that I would swim in if I could, taking a notoriously soft-spoken cut of meat and giving it a microphone.
There is a lot of fear mongering when it comes to mushrooms. But it is a weeknight, and we don't have time for all that. So here's what you're not going to do:
You're not going to painstakingly wipe each cap with a damp towel. You're not going to carefully cut them into even pieces. You're not going to trim or even remove the stems. You're not going to cook them in batches.
Instead, you're going to get into pajamas, turn on your favorite podcast, and rest assured that with enough cream and mushrooms, even a cardboard box would taste good, which means crispy chicken will taste great, greater, greatest.
But you're probably wondering about that third ingredient for the sauce, right? I have a hunch that it's in your fridge right now.
- 1 pound baby bella (aka cremini) mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 (about 1 pound) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, preferably grainy
- 1/3 cup finely chopped chives (or parsley or dill)
- Wash and dry the mushrooms (and don't remove the stems — they're delicious). Slice half. Quarter the other half.
- Set a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted and starting to turn golden, add all the mushrooms and toss to coat. (This looks ridiculous, but it'll work out.) Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're browned and starting to stick to the pan, with no remaining mushroom liquid.
- Meanwhile, horizontally halve the chicken breasts, then use a mallet or heavy skillet to pound the pieces to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Pat chicken dry, then season all over with salt and pepper.
- Stir the mustard into the cream with a fork (directly in its measuring cup to save a dish).
- When the mushrooms are browned and sticking, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then deglaze with 1/3 cup of water.
- Let the water come to a boil while you set another large skillet (preferably cast-iron or enamel) over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted and starting to brown, add the chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the bottom is deeply browned and crusty. You can rotate the pan halfway through and press down on the chicken if it starts to curl up, but don't shuffle it around.
- As soon as the chicken starts cooking, stir the mustard-cream into the mushrooms. Vigorously simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until pale brown and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, then turn off the heat. Season to taste with mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Flip the chicken and cook for about 1 minute more, until just cooked through (165°F on an instant-reader thermometer or opaque in the thickest part). Turn off the heat.
- Spoon the creamy mushrooms on and around the chicken. Shower all over with the chives and serve directly out of the skillet.