Until my sandwich activities this week, I’d never made one of Julia Child’s recipes before. My main associations with her are watching bits and pieces of her cooking shows on PBS in the early 80s. I have vivid memories of my mom being in the room and asking me to be quiet so she could hear the ingredients, instructions, and process. My mom would occasionally jot down bits of the recipes in a little notebook or a scrap of paper during a few cooking shows in those days.
Attention young people: long ago in the ancient past, there were no accompanying websites, no URLs, and not even any printable recipes you could find for the content of these cooking shows (also, no one owned a printer). If you wanted the written form of a recipe from a tv cooking show you had to find something to write on and a pen or pencil and scribble the recipe down as the show was progressing!
What a wild time that was.
What sandwich are we making?
This week we’re taking a Julia Child recipe that I read about online and we’re going to make it and turn it into a sandwich. This is suprêmes de volaille aux champignons and it’s going to be fabulous.
What is suprêmes de volaille aux champignons?
French talkin’ 101
suprêmes de volaille = chicken supremes
aux champignons = with mushrooms
Suprêmes de volaille aux champignons is a recipe with a lot of fancy French-type words that appears in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The recipe name translates to chicken breasts cooked with mushrooms (in a creamy and savory sauce). Of course, there are tasty ingredients in the dish as well, like butter, lemon juice, chicken broth, dry vermouth, and cream. The result should be tender and juicy chicken pieces that could be served on top of rice or pasta.
What is a chicken “supreme”?
Wikipedia informs me that a chicken “supreme” is a boneless and skin-on chicken breast piece whereas Julia in her video down below states that this cut of poultry should be boneless and skinless. I’m not a chef with any chef-like degree so I’m not sure how to address this—or even if it matters—but for this week, we’re doing what Julia did.
WWJD: What Would Julia Do?
The gist of this recipe is that it’s deboned, skinless chicken breasts that are cooked alongside sliced mushrooms, and shallots. There’s a whole lot of butter involved in the cooking process and the final dish has a sauce reduced with vermouth, chicken stock, and heavy cream. In the end, we will add a little finely diced parsley on top to make everything appear healthy.
Who is Julia Child?
Julia Child was too tall to enlist in any normal Army or Navy options for women in 1942, so she did what any other person would do and joined the Office of Strategic Service (OSS), a US government agency that would eventually become the CIA.
The content of Julia’s life in this area is redacted by some government agencies.
Soon after she served as a *wink wink* spy, Julia married and ended up living with her spouse in Paris (the one in France). It was at this point that Julia became more interested in cooking and began studies at the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.
After her experience as a spy, and her later French cooking school education, Julia along with two other women published a cookbook called, Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. This cookbook and Julia’s other forays into the promotion of French cooking in the United States are credited with making French recipes and cuisine more understandable and accessible for American home cooks.
If you haven’t seen it already, back in 2022 there was a tv series released on HBO Max about how Julia Child pretty much single-handedly invented the medium of food tv on public television in the 1960s. It was called Julia and if this sort of thing is interesting to you, we found it fairly entertaining and worth a watch.
I’ve added a video here for Chicken breasts and rice from The French Chef with Julia Child. I am pretty sure this is season 1, episode 8 of her show that aired on March 23, 1963. It’s titled “Chicken breasts and rice” even though she refers to the rice as risotto.
This is ALMOST the same recipe as the one I’m turning into a sandwich; except she does add a few extra vegetables when the recipe I’m following—which came from her cookbook—only calls for mushrooms.
If you haven’t seen Julia Child cook food on live television and you have a few moments, I would suggest giving one of her videos a try. She’s witty and chaotic and quite entertaining. Live television back in the 1960s was rough and at times you can see Julia look past the camera for guidance from a producer or maybe just a cue card person. The whole production is bumpy like local network television, but Julia is such a fascinating personality, and it holds up. But the simple fact that she effectively started food television/videos means you should know where it all started.
Modernizing Julia’s recipe
We must address a couple of things in Julia’s recipe that need to be updated for modern times.
1st – boneless skinless chicken breasts in 2023 are WAY bigger than the breasts she is using in her video. I would say they’re about double. This should adjust your cooking time unless you trim your breasts into smaller pieces, which is what I did. The smaller pieces also make this dish a bit easier to sandwich.
2nd – she suggests using buttered wax paper in the oven, which isn’t something people would do in today’s time. Wax paper has a melting point that is slightly above the temperature of the oven in this recipe, but there’s still no advantage in using wax paper here over parchment paper.
Parchment has a 50-degree higher burning point than the oven temperature we’re using, but since it’s mostly touching wet things, it should not burn. Wax could in theory still melt in hot liquid.
If we’re making a sandwich, first we need some rolls.
French-style sandwich rolls
Julia would implore us to use French bread in this endeavor, so that’s what we’re going to do.
I’ve shared this recipe before, for French dip subs, and this is a solid sandwich roll that can stand up to dipping or soaking in a sauce. The recipe has an overnight poolish that builds some extra flavor and the process requires adding hot water to a pot or pan inside your oven to create steam.
There are two important bread-baking words that I haven’t used very often in my sandwich blog posts and those are biga and poolish. In this recipe, we’re using a poolish which is an equal portion of flour and water (with a little commercial yeast) that serves the purpose of adding extra flavor to bread dough. Biga also serves a similar purpose, but that technique typically calls for more flour than liquid, which gives the biga more of a dough-like consistency. A poolish is very similar to a sourdough starter in that it’s loose and almost pourable. It’s like a thick pancake batter. This recipe calls for the poolish process and gives the resulting bread great flavor and character.
Note: I have made this recipe before with limited time and I just put the poolish ingredients right into the stand mixer with the other ingredients. It still works just fine that way, the final bread flavor will just be a bit less exciting.
Steam plays a very important role in bread baking. Commercial bakers will often have special ovens that create or use moisture inside the hot oven to create steam. There’s a great article over on King Arthur Baking about steam’s function in bread baking that I suggest you check out if you’re interested. Basically, adding steam into your oven during the beginning of the bread baking process will help your bread to have a crisp or crunchy outside crust.
Since we’re using commercial yeast in these rolls, the rise times are typical for other styles of bread. I do add a stretch and fold period within the first 45 minutes of dough creation which helps to build gluten and dough structure.
Suprêmes de volaille
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
I did not make what some on the internet are telling me are chicken supremes. That route would have led us to boneless and SKIN ON breasts, which would have honestly cooked terribly with this method because the skin would have ended up flabby and unrendered.
Instead, we are working with boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces that you can buy at your local grocery. Your biggest need here is to have similarly sized chicken pieces so that they cook through consistently.
Julia uses flat, super thin chicken breast pieces which you could accomplish with a butterflying technique from today’s version of chicken breasts or if you are sandwiching like I am, you could just use chicken tender pieces that you can buy at your local store or you can slice raw chicken breasts into “chicken tender” sized shaped slices as you can see in the photos below.
The best part about this recipe is the sauce. Chicken and mushrooms cooked in a pan with salt and pepper will produce a final dish that is tasty, but the sauce created here will leave you craving it again.
This recipe also creates quite a bit of sauce, which is often my pet peeve in recipes I might find online. I always want more sauce. This recipe will make enough so you can pour this on top of rice or even (don’t tell Julia!) pasta noodles or mashed potatoes. Reducing the sauce helps, but it only takes about 3 or 4 minutes to get to a consistency where it sticks to the chicken and mushrooms.
But best of all, this sauce is fantastic and perfect for dipping some crusty bread into it. And you know what we’re going to do with it? Spoon the whole thing, sauce and all, inside a French-style sandwich roll!
Suprêmes de volaille aux champignons sandwich
Chicken and mushroom sauce sandwich
Here are some of the versions of chicken and mushroom sauce sandwiches that I made. Even if you don’t make this into a sandwich of your own, I suggest you give the main recipe a try for a quick weeknight-style dinner.
This is an original Julia Child recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking that I have altered with a French-style bread roll to turn it into a sandwich. Make sure you get a bit of extra sauce inside the bread!
Ingredients:Chicken and mushrooms
- 3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into similarly sized pieces
- 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon shallot, minced
- 1⁄4 cup sliced mushrooms
- salt and pepper as needed
- 1⁄4 cup white vermouth or madeira wine
- 1⁄4 cup chicken broth or stock
- 1 cup whipping cream
- salt (to taste)
- ground black pepper (to taste)
- 1 French-style bread roll
- chicken and mushrooms (from above)
- mushroom sauce (from above)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
Chicken and mushrooms: preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (205 C).
Check out your chicken breasts, if they are more than an inch thick, you should probably butterfly them or cut the meat into strips that are less than an inch thick. Season the chicken breasts or breast pieces with drizzles of lemon juice as well as some salt and ground black pepper.
Add 5 tablespoons of butter into a Dutch oven or a 10 to 12-inch pan that has a lid and is oven safe. Place the pot/pan over medium heat.
While the butter is melting, use the lid of your pot/pan to roughly cut a piece of parchment paper into a round-ish shape. This parchment will be placed inside of the pot during the oven cooking time, so it just needs to be able to fit.
When the butter is fully melted and bubbly, add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. After two minutes add the mushrooms and cook those with the butter and shallot, stirring occasionally for another 3 minutes.
At this point, roll the chicken in the mushrooms and butter and lay your cut piece of parchment directly on top of the chicken/mushrooms. Put the lid on the pot/pan and place it in the oven.
Cook for 15 to 20 minutes in the oven. If your chicken is on the thicker side of things, you might need the entire 20 minutes.
Mushroom sauce: once time has elapsed, pull the pot/pan out of the oven, and with tongs or a fork, remove the chicken to a plate while you prepare the sauce. Put the pot/pan back over medium heat on the stove.
Add dry vermouth and stock/broth to the pot/pan with the mushrooms and simmer to reduce the liquid for about 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, add cream and bring everything back to a simmer to reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency for another 4 or 5 minutes.
Taste the creamy sauce for seasoning. Add lemon juice, salt, and black pepper if you think it needs more seasoning.
Add the cooked chicken back and stir it into the sauce. Cook for one final minute to warm the chicken back up and get everything saucy.
Finely chop a small amount of parsley to use for garnish.
Sandwich assembly: slice your French-style bread 3/4 of the way through and open it up like a book. Add chicken, mushrooms and sauce into the roll to fill the sandwich.
Add extra sauce to the bread if you like a saucier sandwich experience. Sprinkle over parsley and serve.
Check back next week!
Next week I’ll be making the first sandwich I’ve made that was fully suggested by a reader. Join my Patreon for inside information about future sandwiches. Every few weeks I will select a patron to tell me what sandwich they want me to make and then I’ll try to make it and write about the experience.