Sure it’s the holiday season, and there are a lot of parties and fancy meals everywhere. But sometimes (holiday or no) you just want to treat yourself even without a party. Cooking for one doesn’t have to mean dull and boring. Pan-fried steak with mushroom brandy cream sauce is rich, creamy, and just slightly indulgent. The cream is velvety, and the mushrooms add an earthy flavor, while the scallions and garlic bring just a hint of sweetness to the sauce. A funny thing happens to onions and garlic once you sauté them; they transform from spicy to sweet.
All that and it’s still really easy to prepare. You can have a delicious, festive dinner in about twenty minutes. A big payoff without a lot of work!
I’ve made the sauce with pan-fried steak, but it works just as well with a pork chop or a piece of chicken. If you make it with a bone-in chicken thigh, start that about 20 minutes before you begin cooking the sauce, as it takes longer to cook than a steak or a pork chop.
If you’re going with the steak, start that at the same time as the sauce. Then take it off the heat and let it rest while you finish preparing the sauce.
A rich, easy and festive dinner with earthy mushrooms, silky smooth cream, and a splash of brandy.
1 boneless steak, about 4-6 oz.
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, chopped
3-4 mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste (for both steak and sauce)
1 tsp brandy
1/4 C heavy cream
Season the steak with salt and pepper and start cooking it in a skillet over high heat. Sear on each side, then turn the heat down to medium and cook for 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness and your preferred doneness. If you have grass-fed beef, add some butter or olive oil to the pan, since it's less fatty than standard beef. Remove the steak from the pan to a plate once it's done and let it rest.
Melt the butter in a second skillet on medium heat.
Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Then add the scallions and cook another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the mushrooms and let them sit, undisturbed, in the pan for 2-3 minutes. When they have developed a nice deep brown color, flip them over and cook another minute or two.
Add the brandy and the cream to the pan and bring the sauce to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for five minutes.
Pour the sauce over the steak.
I made this with brown jasmine rice and some string beans, but it would work well with potatoes too, or even just some crusty bread to sop up every last bit of the sauce.
Pan-fried Steak with Mushroom Brandy Cream Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Use shallots or chopped onions instead of the scallions (I grabbed scallions because I have a pot of them growing in my windowsill)
Exchange the brandy for white wine and toss the same sauce with pasta
Coq au vin (or rooster in wine) is a classic French dish. It’s flavorful, it’s rich, and it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare. First, you season the chicken, let it sit overnight, then brown it, add vegetables, and braise it slowly. Authentic coq au vin also requires lots of pots, lardons, which are thick matchstick strips of bacon, glazed pearl onions, croutons, and finally toast points! It takes hours to prepare it properly. It’s wonderful, but it’s also a major undertaking, and highly impractical for a weekday dinner. In contrast, this stovetop coq au vin takes about half an hour to make. Much better!
I have adapted this recipe from Pierre Franey’s 60 Minute Gourmet Cookbook. Being French he called it “Poulet Sauté au Brouilly” (or chicken sautéed in Brouilly wine). I say stovetop coq au vin or chicken with red wine sauce and mushrooms works just fine.
And, once you finish a bit of chopping and browning, stovetop coq au vin mostly cooks itself. You don’t have to fuss with it, you don’t need to use half the pots in your kitchen, and you don’t have to clean them up either. This version only requires a single skillet.
When choosing the red wine, look for one that’s fruity and flavorful, but not too tannic. Wines such as Zinfandel, Brouilly, Beaujolais, or Merlot are fine (I used Merlot). On the other hand, a Cabernet Sauvignon would be overpowering.
If you’re hungry, chicken thighs are a great answer to the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” You can get this chicken and mushroom skillet recipe from walk in the door from work to ready to eat in about half an hour.
And, it only requires one pot! Less clean up is a good thing, in my book. You don’t have to marinate the chicken, or leave it overnight, or fuss with it. Pan fry the chicken, slice the mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and let it simmer.
There’s no separate gravy to prepare either. It creates its own sauce right in the pan.
The funny thing is, I “invented” (or thought I’d invented) this recipe one night from ingredients I had lying around. It turns out that it’s nearly identical to a recipe in one of Jacques Pépin’s cookbooks. I don’t pretend to be his equal, but if you’re going to “borrow” an idea from someone, start at the top!
Although, I will say that his recipe requires two pots and mine only needs one. Yes, I do count the washing up necessary to make something (it makes a difference when you don’t have a dishwasher).
Serve the chicken with rice or crusty bread to sop up the sauce. The vegetables in the photo were just some frozen mixed vegetables that I microwaved with salt and lemon pepper.
A quick one pot chicken dish with mushrooms, onions, and garlic.
1 chicken thigh, bone-in
salt and pepper
1-2 T olive oil
2 tsp flour
1/3 C chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
2-3 sliced mushrooms (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 C chicken broth (plus one or 2 T if needed)
pinch dried thyme
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a small skillet on medium heat.
Put the chicken in the pan and cook five minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook another five minutes.
Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Sprinkle everything with the flour and stir to distribute it evenly.
Pour the chicken broth into the pan and sprinkle the thyme over the chicken and vegetables.
Cover the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Remove the chicken and set it on a plate. Stir the remaining vegetables and scrape up the brown bits at the bottom. If it's too dry, add another tablespoon or two of chicken broth. This should deglaze the pan and create a sauce. Cook for another few minutes until the sauce thickens.
Pour the mushroom sauce over the chicken.
Chicken and Mushroom Skillet Recipe Substitutions and Variations
stir a splash of dry white wine into the sauce (or use the wine instead of the chicken broth)
add 1/3 cup of frozen broccoli to the mushroom mixture
Sometimes, meals are carefully planned. Other times, it’s pure serendipity. I spotted goat cheese on sale at the market and grabbed some. When I got home, I remembered I had some leftover pizza dough in the fridge. I decided to put them together and make a goat cheese caramelized onion pizza.
You can approach this recipe two different ways. If you make the crust yourself (not hard, but it does take time), it’s a weekend meal. Buy the crust pre-made (you can get it at grocery stores or even your local pizzeria), and it’s a 30 minute meal. So, dinner in half an hour!
I made my own crust (following Smitten Kitchen’s easy recipe), but if you’re in a rush, you don’t have to. By the way, she says to roll out the crust, but I find it works better if I just place it on the baking sheet and gently press outward from the center with my fingers.
If you do make the dough, it makes enough for one generous dinner serving, or two lunch servings.It will keep in the fridge for several days, so you don’t have to eat it all at once.Take it out and let the dough come to room temperature before you start working with it.
Cooking, of course,is often a process of taking what you already know about food and flavors, doing a bit of research (in cookbooks or online) and combining bits of ideas and techniques.I often find myself taking bits and pieces from two or three recipes and putting them back together in different ways.
In this case, I started with the pizza crust recipe I already had. Then I added the goat cheese. I took the caramelized onions and the bell pepper from one recipe, the spinach from a second, and the garlic oil from a third. You can always mix and match to suit your own taste, or the ingredients you have on hand (see more in the Substitutions and Variations section).
Also, I don’t normally post “in progress” photos, but the pizza looked so good I couldn’t resist!
With a pre-bought crust, this is dinner in thirty minutes. Just a bit of chopping and cooking the onions.
Pizza crust (either pre-made or purchased).
4 T olive oil (divided)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion. sliced
1/4 C sliced red bell pepper
1/4 C goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 C fresh spinach
1-2 tsp semolina or cream of wheat
Preheat the oven as high as it will go.
Mix half the olive oil and the chopped garlic together in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan. Cook the onions on low heat, until they soften and caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the bell pepper, cook stirring for thirty seconds or so. Then add the spinach for another 30 seconds.
Sprinkle the semolina on a pizza stone (if you have one), or a baking sheet. This will help keep the dough from sticking.
Put the pizza dough on the baking sheet. Using your fingers, push the dough out from the center, to form a circle.
Brush about half the garlic/oil mixture over the crust.
Add the cooked vegetables and the goat cheese. Brush the remaining garlic/oil mixture over the top.
Bake for 10 minutes.
The pre-made dough in the store is usually enough for two, so use half.
Substitutions and Variations for Goat Cheese Caramelized Onion Pizza
This pasta, broccoli, mushrooms, and chicken sausage recipe is based on a recipe invented by Kimberly Chapman (from Eat the Evidence; she makes astonishing desserts and “Ace of Cakes” cakes too).
She had this wonderful English, locally raised bacon and fresh asparagus and decided to make pasta with it (her recipe is here).
It looked so good I wanted to try it. But I didn’t have bacon (or asparagus). I could have gone out and bought asparagus, but I’m not a huge asparagus fan, unless it’s drenched in Hollandaise sauce. I did have some chicken sausage and frozen broccoli though. So, I decided to follow her technique while changing the ingredients a bit.
I used chicken sausage instead of bacon, kept the mushrooms, added red bell pepper (as I had part of a pepper leftover from something else and had to use it up). Then, I changed the cheese to Manchego instead of parmesan, because that’s also what I had on hand.
Tip: When your chunk of parmesan, Manchego, or other hard cheese gets hard to grate with a box grater, use a microplane instead. You can also save the rinds (or even buy them at the market) and use them for soup. Just put them in a plastic bag in the fridge. They’ll keep indefinitely.
Back to the recipe, you essentially, cook the sausage (or bacon), add the veggies, then the pasta, some chicken broth, and top it all with grated cheese.
Pasta with Sausage, Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Peppers
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Pasta with broccoli, sausage, red peppers, and mushrooms. A quick and easy dinner for one.
1/4 long pasta (such as spaghetti)
2 T olive oil
1 link chicken sausage, cut into one inch chunks
2 large mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C frozen broccoli
1/4 C red bell pepper, cut in chunks
1/4 C chicken broth
2T grated Manchego (or parmesan cheese)
Fill a medium size saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
Add the pasta, and cook until al dente (about 10) minutes.
While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large frying pan.
Cook sausage, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Remove the sausage from the pan, but don't wipe the pan.
Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook five minutes until they start to brown.
Put the frozen broccoli into the pan and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes..
Pour in the chicken broth, and let the mixture cook a minute or two.
Add the red pepper.
Once the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the frying pan, tossing with tongs to combine all the ingredients.
Grate the cheese over the pasta mixture and serve.
You can use regular sausage instead of chicken sausage; if you do, you'll need less olive oil. Mix and match the ingredients to suit your own taste. Vary the veggies, go back to bacon, or skip the meat and use vegetable broth to make it vegetarian.
This single serving chicken recipe flavored with tarragon and mushrooms will make you think you’ve gone to a fine French restaurant (without the big bill at the end of the meal).
I adapted the recipe from Pierre Franey’s 60 Minute Gourmet cookbook. Its official name translates to Fricassé of Chicken with Tarragon. My friends and family used to call it “cholesterol chicken.”
The original recipe called for three tablespoons of butter and an entire cup of cream! Much as I love butter and cream, that’s a bit…much.
So, I decided to make it a bit lighter, while also adapting the recipe to make it a single serving chicken recipe instead of the original four. I reduced the amount of butter and used canola oil instead. Then, I replaced the cream with a mixture of Greek yogurt and milk.
It’s still a quick and easy chicken recipe and it still tastes great (though it’s certainly not low fat) and I haven’t sacrificed one bit of flavor.
Let’s call it Tarragon Chicken with Mushrooms for One Person instead.
I made a larger recipe for my parents recently, with a few variations, since mom had different ingredients and onions bother dad’s stomach. I used “better than bullion” concentrate, garlic powder instead of fresh garlic, and dried shiitake mushrooms. My dad is not a big fan of chicken, but he certainly liked this recipe. He licked his plate clean! Mom insisted that I write down exactly what I did so I could repeat it.
Single Serving Chicken Recipe with Tarragon and Mushrooms
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
1 chicken thigh, bone-in
1T canola oil
1 tsp butter
1/2 C onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1/8 tsp dried tarragon
1 C mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp flour
1/4 C chicken broth
1/4 C mixture of Greek yogurt and milk (use two thirds yogurt and one third milk; the idea is to get the consistency of cream); or just go for it and use the cream
Wash the chicken and pat dry. Season it with salt and pepper.
Get a medium skillet and heat on a medium flame. Add the oil. Then add the butter. Once the butter melts, add the chicken. Cook the chicken, turning it every once in a while, for about 5 minutes total. Add the onion, garlic, and tarragon
Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and mushroom mixture, and stir it all around to make sure it's spread evenly around the pan.
Add the chicken broth and the mushrooms to the pan. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the size of the piece of chicken).
Remove the chicken from the pan with tongs and put it on your plate while you finish making the rest of the sauce. Cover the chicken with the lid of the pot to keep it warm.
Cook the sauce, and keep stirring it, for 5 minutes.
Add the cream (or yogurt mixture). If you use the yogurt, spoon some of the sauce from the pan into the yogurt and mix it together before adding it to the pan. This will keep it from separating.
Simmer for three minutes. Then, put the chicken back in the pan and spoon the sauce over it.
Tarragon Chicken with Mushrooms Recipe Substitutions and Variations
If you don’t have the yogurt/milk use the cream, or mix butter and milk together and melt it before adding it to the sauce (since butter is essentially solidified cream)
The original recipe called for fresh tarragon. I bought some and found it tasted like licorice. Since I don’t particularly like licorice, I wasn’t too happy about that! On the other hand, if you do like licorice, or fresh tarragon, use one small sprig.
Try using wild mushrooms, like shiitake or chanterelle instead of white button mushrooms; this also works well with dried mushrooms (reconstitute them with hot water to cover and let them sit for five or ten minutes)
Here’s the 60 minute gourmet cookbook I got the recipe from. My copy is battered, beat up, and has been loved to pieces. The meals are all fairly easy to make and fast. In addition to the chicken, I recommend the chicken in red wine sauce, the chicken scarpariello, shrimp in creole sauce, broiled lamb patties, london broil with sauce chasseur, and the tongue in dill mustard sauce (which is both tasty and super-easy to make).
More from Pierre Franey; these recipes were published in his newspaper column but hadn’t been collected in a cookbook. There are plenty of chicken dinners here too, such as baked chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta and herbs, Indonesian chicken breast, chicken with spicy mango barbecue sauce, shrimp with snow peas, and fettucine with goat cheese and asparagus.