Roasted Chicken in a French Cherry Madeira Sauce Recipe

Updated on December 21, 2017
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Oh, France. It seems like all of the recipes I find in cookbooks about your cuisine are so wonderfully and decadently rich. Perhaps it is my fault, using cookbooks of yours that stretch back to the 1960s and 1970s, but I certainly can't complain about the results. This recipe is a perfect example of that: succulent roasted chicken basted with honey, combined with a dark demi-glazed cherry sauce and lots of reduced wine. As rich and decadent as it is, I can't even imagine what it would be like in the original version, which is made with duck... sadly, members of my family don't like duck, so I'm not able to make the original vision. With chicken alone, this is a wonderful French chicken and cherry recipe, which is especially good served with bread. And in my case, I served it with a spinach souffle as well.

I have adapted this recipe from Cooking à la Cordon Bleu, by Alma Lach, and I have seen it replicated in Hows and Whys of French Cooking again by Alma S. Lach. Both are good books, although Hows and Whys of French Cooking includes everything in Cooking à la Cordon Bleu and significant extra additions. In the original recipe, duck was used, and also a lot more meat was present, so if one desires it is easy to expand and switch around the centerpiece of this meal.

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  • 2 lb chicken, (preferably dark and skin attached, adjust if using large bird)
  • 1 cup cherries, canned or fresh
  • salt and pepper, for both seasoning chicken, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper for sauces
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Kirsch
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup madeira
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup water


  1. Prepare the madeira sauce. Peel and dice the 2 onions. The original recipe called for having 2 carrots which are diced to be added in, and if one has them, they would make a good addition, but they did not feel strictly necessary to me. Sauté in 3 tablespoons of butter for 30 minutes, stirring so that they do not burn, but so that they caramelize. 10 minutes before the end, add in the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Add in 2 tablespoons of flour, stir-fry for 3 minutes, and then add the 2 cups stock, the 2 cloves of minced garlic, the 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried tarragon, the bay leaf, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook for around 30 minutes with the lid askew, or until it turns a rich dark brown. If desired, strain to remove the solid materials, but these can be left in as well. Add in 1/2 cup of Madeira which has boiled to reduce it to 1/4 cup, and then 2 tablespoons of cognac.
  2. Salt and pepper the chicken which is ins breasts, thighs, or other large but individual segments heavily, and place into a wide casserole dish or baking tray. Roast in an oven at 450 degrees f for 10 minutes, then baste with a honey-water mixture (2 parts water to 1 part honey), then continue to cook at 350 degrees f for 30 more minutes.
  3. Combine together the cherries (if you have more than 1 cup of canned cherries, don't hesitate to add in more, they are quite delicious in providing additional garnish) 1/4 cup kirsch, 1 cup white wine, and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan. Heat until it boils, then remove from heat and if canned cherries are used, retreat them to a serving platter. Proceed to boil the remaining liquid to reduce it to a thick syrup or 1/4 cup. Then add this to the previously made Madeira sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Place the cherries back into saucepan, then add the Madeira sauce, combine, add a dash of Kirsch and then pour over the chicken on a serving platter.

© 2017 Ryan Thomas


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