Horseradish is a very old and classic ingredient in Scandinavian cooking, and some say that it is the garlic of the North. But maybe it would be more fitting to compare it to chili as it provides a very distinct and aromatic hotness when added to a dish. This chicken in creamy horseradish sauce is one of the top classics of traditional Danish cooking, though here we’ve updated and modernized it a bit, bringing in some greens that compliment horseradish really well.
I was introduced to the classic version of this dish (no greens added) by my grandparents when I was about 12 years old. At first sight, I was not won over. But because I was taught to be polite, I did taste it, and to my own great surprise I really really liked it. It was hot, but not in the way that makes your throat burn and you feel like gulping down liters of water. Actually, horseradish, though being hot, almost like wasabi, also has a certain sweetness to it that makes it a very interesting and complex ingredient.
Typically Danes make this dish in the cold winter months, precisely because the hot horseradish brings some heat to the body. However, by adding some spring and summer greens this dish works equally well in the warmer months of the year. And nowadays horseradish is available all through the year in well-stocked grocery stores. For me that’s a wonderful excuse to make this chicken in creamy horseradish sauce whenever I get the craving, no matter the season.
Chicken in creamy horseradish sauce (serves 4)
1.75 oz (800 g) skinless chicken breast or fillet
1 cube good quality chicken stock
1 bulb fennel
5 oz (150 g) sugar snap peas
Canola (rapeseed) oil
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
About 7 inch (15-20 cm) long piece of fresh horseradish (about 150 g), skin peeled off and finely grated
1/2 l cream
1 handful fresh pea shoots
1. Start by filling a large cooking pot with about 35 oz (1 liter) water and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and put in the chicken and let it boil at a low-medium temperature for about 30 min. Then take the chicken out, save about ½ of the stock, and let the chicken rest until the sauce is ready.
2. While the chicken cooks, prepare the vegetables: Cut the snap peas lengthwise into halves and slice up the fennel into bite size pieces. Gently sauté both in a pan with some canola oil for 5-10 minutes. The veggies should be cooked but still firm, so be careful not to overcook them. Put the veggies aside until the sauce is ready.
3. In a deep frying pan or pot melt the butter over low heat. Pour in the flour and start whisking immediately. Then slowly, little by little, add the chicken stock from earlier while you whisk. When all the chicken stock has gone in, follow the same procedure with the cream. Make sure the sauce reaches a boil for a couple of minutes. That way you ensure that the sauce won’t taste of flour.
4. Now add the grated horseradish and let it mix well into the sauce while you stir. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Break up the chicken into bite size pieces and pour into the sauce. Keep just a little of the snap peas for garnish, and then add the fennel and the rest of the snap peas to the sauce. Let it sit in the sauce for a couple of minutes over medium heat to make sure everything gets properly warm again..
5. Serve either on individual plates or in a bowl with pea shoots, snap peas and dill as garnish.
I usually serve either good fresh bread, rice and/or a green salad with my chicken in creamy horseradish sauce.
Want to try more classic Danish dishes? Here are a few great options: