Working the Hesser Canon: Chicken Roasted with Sour Cream, Lemon Juice and Mango Chutney

Cookbooks are strange things. Some sit on your shelf for years ignored (my Nigella Lawsons, my Julia Childs) and some beckon to you like harpies on a heath. (Harpies on a heath?) (It makes sense in my head.)

One factor that determines a cookbook’s harpiness (oi, harpiness) is its tract record. Of the recipes you’ve cooked from this cookbook, how many have proved successful? How many have proven to be failures?

Nancy Silverton, for example. I went through a Nancy Silverton phase last winter. Remember? I made sourdough with a wild yeast starter? Well some of her recipes were winners (the sourdough, for example) but many were doozies. The coffee cake disaster comes to mind. So Nancy remains on the shelf, shunned and forgotten.

Much of my Barefoot Contessa worship has to do with how successful her recipes have proven. I’d say her batting average is… ummm, I don’t understand sports so let’s say her GPA is 3.9. I don’t think I’ve had a Contessa disaster yet.

Amanda Hesser is a newbie in the class and so far she’s fared quite well. Her vanilla bean loaves were triumphs of flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla beans. One was gobbled up immediately, the other sat in my freezer until I defrosted it and gobbled it up just as greedily.

So Amanda Hesser leaped the first hurdle with flair: pastry. For pastry we give Amanda an A+.

Now on to entree. Dinner. Chicken.

We’re talking her Chicken Roasted with Sour Cream, Lemon Juice and Mango Chutney. Actually, in all fairness, it’s not her recipe. It’s her husband’s recipe (Tad Friend’s). He cooked it for her early in their courtship. It’s really easy and really yummy. It makes your kitchen smell like curry though. And also it makes you fart curry farts. Sorry to be crass, but curry farts are a fact of life and if you cook this dish you better be prepared. (How their courtship survived this dish, I’ll never know.)

Here’s what you need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used two)

1/2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

2 Tbs Major Grey mango chutney

(Actually, Whole Foods didn’t have Major Grey, so I went with Hampton Chutney, which worked fine):

1 tsp curry powder

Juice of 1 Meyer lemon or 1 regular lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450. Lay the chicken flat in a roasting dish (either Pyrex or enamel) that’s large enough to fit the pieces in one layer.


Whisk together the mayonaisse and sour cream. Drop in the chutney and curry powder and keep whisking until smooth. Add the lemon juice a little at a time and taste as you go. It should be quite tangy. Stop when it is to your liking.


2. Spoon the sauce over the chicken.


Place in the oven and roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes.


After you take it out of the oven, grind fresh pepper over top. (I forgot to do this.)

Anyway, tasted great. One piece was slightly undercooked. It was hard to tell because of all that sauce:


That’s basically what this is–chicken with tangy curry sauce. I thought I was making more of a marinade until the end product came out. And the tangy curry sauce made the whole experience lush and creamy. (Lush and creamy?) (Quiet, I’m drunk.) Let me quote Amanda: “It wasn’t at all a veloute, which is rich and feels like velvet in your mouth. This had more heft and was tangy, even a little fruity. It was a delicious mystery.”

Amanda’s current GPA: 4.0 (based on two recipes).

10 thoughts on “Working the Hesser Canon: Chicken Roasted with Sour Cream, Lemon Juice and Mango Chutney”

  1. Sounds yummy! It’s cute that you wrote “tract” instead of “track.” Kind of a gustatory Freudian slip.

  2. I always judge cookbooks based on baking successes. I mean, something like a marinade or a salad you can fudge or season to taste; those recipes are great for ideas but maybe not quite essential. But baking you can’t just screw around with. Nigella’s lime cheesecake and fallen chocolate cake were both great but her sugar cookies and muffins sucked. I stopped using her books for baking after those two recipes flopped.

    My copy of Julia Child’s Way To Cook gets thumbed through all the time for the tough stuff. Selecting cuts of beef? Butterflying a chicken? Julia’ll get you through it.

    Have you read Ruth Reichl’s memoirs? I don’t remember you mentioning them in your blog. There’s a similarity to Amanda Hesser’s book in that each chapter ends with a recipe. I thoroughly enjoy her writing and plan on baking some stuff from Comfort Me With Apples soon.

  3. How do you feel about using boneless chicken breats? Where I grew up there was a restaurant that served a fried chicken sandwich with the bones in. I still think it’s the best chicken sandwich around because, 1)sometimes messy food tastes better, but also 2)bones give flavor. Do you never feel like your being asked to cheat when the receipe asks for boneless?

  4. I too have a Barefoot Contessa worship (am impatiently awaiting her new book) and have read and re-read and re-read Cooking for Mr.Latte. Have you tried the Rigatoni with bolognese? Im going to try that recipe next and would love any tips you might have.

  5. I’m so with you on the Barefoot Contessa thing. I use her books constantly and she’s never let me down yet.

  6. This one inspired me to cook, AG! The Whole Foods near your old digs had no chutney at all, so I was forced to go hunting. Luckily, I ran into a friend’s dad who steered me toward a small Indian grocery and import store close by, where I was able to get my hands on some Major Greys. I too undercooked the chicken. But then I put it back in the oven and promptly overcooked it. Sigh. I really need to learn how to cook chicken properly! However, the dish still got rave reviews from Ken – score!

    Anyway, thanks for the recipe – I will definitely be making this again!

  7. *gasp*

    u don’t pore over nigella’s?

    *double gasp*

    I’ve always loved her simple recipes. I always cringe when watching her tv show though… she ALWAYS forgets to season w/ salt!

    anyway, ive noticed that u have a way with baking. might i suggest u get (or suggest somebody get for u) a book called, ‘The Professional Pastry Chef’ by Chef Bo Friberg?

    I feel its the bible for either foodies or serious chefs alike. it’s like 10 lbs and costs an arm and a leg but its definitely worth it

    btw,just wanted to add that u have great food blog!

    take care!

  8. I love your idea and i was wanting to make it but the directions are a little hard to understand. I kept reading it but i cant get it. Once again I love the idea but i dont use cook books i like to just to make up something random and try it.

  9. I love your idea and i was wanting to make it but the directions are a little hard to understand. I kept reading it but i cant get it. Once again I love the idea but i dont use cook books i like to just to make up something random and try it.

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