I’m willing to nominate James Beard’s Mustard Chicken, my favorite made-by-mom dish, The Best Chicken Recipe Ever. If you have doubts, try it.
It doesn’t photograph well; Dijon mustard, sauteed onions, wild mushrooms, cream, parsley, and caramel-browned chicken breast ends up a study in brown with some green parsley flecks, but it is iconically magnificent deliciousness on a fork.
Everything about it says James Beard – the liberal use of cream, the bone-in, skin-on chicken breast, the trustworthy delicousness. It may appear dated, but ignore your 2013 inclination to add sriracha, avocado, and matcha to everything. The people at your table will be fighting for the leftover sauce here. Make sure there’s crusty sourdough bread, or Parker House Rolls – more James Beard-like. Prepared as a weekday meal, you will suddenly love the week. Prepared at a dinner party, people will love you.
As mentioned, this was probably my favorite dish made by my mother. I couldn’t find it in the one James Beard cookbook I have. A few google searches told me that many people feel as I do – James Beard’s Mustard Chicken is a miracle of a recipe, but very hard to find online. It was published in “Beard on Food,” and its online absence is proof that not every single great recipe is searchable. Or at least not without digging past the first google page, which I had to do. I consider it a public service to publish it here; hopefully we elevate one of the world’s Best Chicken Dishes to the top of the search. Happy mid-week!
- some notes on my dinner: I only needed three chicken breasts, and so adapted the recipe. That’s why you only see three in my photos. Also, I used the wonderful wild chicken mushroom Sandy Farrell had foraged, but Beard is fine with completely ordinary mushrooms. I served my chicken with my favorite black rice (Thank you, Mary Hughes!) which has great chewy bite and gutsy character. Willowrest sells it.
James Beard’s Mustard Chicken
4 half chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dust chicken pieces with flour and saute in heavy skillet with 4 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil until nicely browned on all sides.
Remove the chicken to a ceramic or glass baking dish. Spread the chicken liberally with mustard on both sides.
Reheat the skillet with the remaining fat. Add the chopped onion and mushrooms. If you need fat add 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook until the mushrooms are cooked through. Add parsley, salt and pepper.
Stir cream into mushroom mixture,and heat through. Pour over chicken, and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or chicken is done.
Remove from oven. Plate chicken, and heat remaining sauce in the dish on top of the stove. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and pour over the chicken. Garnish with chopped parsley.