Parslied Bread Sauce with Poached Chicken is classic comfort food with a British flair!
*This post is sponsored by Schwartz ~ thank you for supporting my brand partners, I only bring you companies I know and trust, and they help keep tvfgi up and cooking!
Today I’m going off in a little bit of a different direction. This lovely spring dinner comes from across the pond, but it’s not the edgy British cuisine of Ottolenghi I’m drawing on this time. Bread sauce goes all the way back to medieval times, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like, a sauce thickened with bread! When Schwartz asked me to come up with a recipe, I have to admit I was a little hesitant. But as I looked into it, I got curious about this sauce that’s survived so many centuries. And I have a soft spot for classic British comfort cooking since my husband and I spent a year after college renting a flat above a pub just a few tube stops outside of London. In that year I came to appreciate all things buttered, creamed, boiled, mashed, pudding’d and pie’d. But I never did encounter bread sauce, so this is going to be an adventure…of the cozy and comfy sort.
So what exactly is it? Bread sauce is a delicately flavored milk sauce thickened with finely ground bread crumbs. It’s seasoned with an onion studded with whole cloves, whole peppercorns, and a sprinkling of nutmeg, or mace…are you starting to get the Medieval vibe? I messed with tradition just a little and added a bunch of parsley. With poached chicken and the first fava beans of the season, it’s a comforting, nourishing meal. Who knew?
When you cut the crusts off fresh bread and grind it in a food processor the crumbs are so light, they have the texture of fluffy couscous. I recommend using a soft white sandwich type bread for the lightest crumbs that will melt right into the sauce. As it cooks it turns thick like a custard or a pudding, and I was pleased with the creamy texture of my sauce — the traditional version can be quite thick and lumpy. I make sure to finely grind my fresh bread, and to only add just enough crumbs to thicken the sauce.
I was surprised how much savory flavor the spices and onion imparted to the milk after just 30 minutes of infusing. For me this is the key to the sauce, the flavor is wonderful.
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 white or yellow onion
- 1 pint milk
- 20 whole cloves
- 5 whole peppercorns
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- about 3/4 cup freshly made white breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream
- salt and white pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup parsley leaves, very finely minced
- To poach the chicken, put the breasts in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, and let simmer gently for 3 minutes. Take off the heat, cover rightly, and let sit for 30 minutes. Then drain the chicken, and chill, or, if using right away, slice on the diagonal into several slices each.
- Peel and halve the onion, and insert the cloves in the cut side of each half.
- Put the milk in a saucepan along with the onion, peppercorns, and nutmeg. Bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, and then take off the heat and let sit, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Strain the milk and put into a fresh saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium and reheat the sauce, stirring constantly, while adding the breadcrumbs. Stir or whisk until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil. The minute it is thick whisk in the butter, cream and parsley. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and serve right away.
To make fresh breadcrumbs, cut the crusts off a few slices of white bread, and put them in a food processor. Process until you get fine, fluffy, crumbs.
Not bad for my first Medieval sauce!