I read cookbooks to relax. There is no better way for me to unwind than to read a recipe, imagine the finished dish, and consider when I might possibly try my hand at making it. I go in phases — I rotate between 2-4 cookbooks within a theme for a month or two, then move onto another set of books on a different topic. For a while I might read about sausage/charcuterie/meat, then move onto indian cooking for a month, then start on simple vegetable preparations for a bit, then head towards bbq for a while, which might then bring me back to sausages and meats.
As of late, my interest has been french cooking. Old style french cooking, more accurately. It started after Steven and I went to southern france for a week in late May. Since then I have been cycling through Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking, Richard Olney’s Simple French Food and The French Menu Cookbook, and Jane Grigson’s Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, all of which were originally published more than 35 years ago (1960, 1974, 1970, and 1964 respectively). Simple French Food is emerging as my favorite due to the multitude of not-too-difficult, yet elegant vegetable preparations; with its charcuterie and sausage themes, Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery is coming in a close second.
This delicious chicken preparation, however, is not from any of these four books. Instead, it is based on a recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which I do not own yet… I am waiting to get back to SF and buy it from Omnivore Books). It’s a lovely preparation, and not too difficult at all. The sauce couldn’t be simpler, and the only chopping involved is cutting up 2 T. of fresh basil. The result is a moist, flavorful dish with a rich eggy sauce that looks beautiful on the plate. I served it alongside a zucchini and chard gratin (recipe coming soon), a simple green salad, a warm sesame-topped roll, and a glass of not-too-sweet Hungarian Riesling that we picked up on a recent trip to Budapest. A feast!
Do you have any favorite french cookbooks? old, modern, or otherwise?
Poulet Sauté Aux Herbes de Provence
adapted from Julia Child’s recipe at Epicurious
1/2 c. butter (or goose fat, if you have it)
1 3 – 3 1/2 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or an assortment of chicken pieces, all legs etc)
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried basil
1/4 t. fennel seeds, ground in a spice grinder
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/2 c. dry white vermouth ( or 2/3 c. dry white wine)
2 large egg yolks
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. vermouth or dry white wine
2 T. chopped fresh basil
Melt butter in a large wide pot over medium high heat. Working in batches, if necessary, add chicken pieces and cook until golden, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes per batch. Once all chicken has been sauteed, transfer chicken breast pieces to a plate, and return all other pieces to the pot. Sprinkle about 2/3 to 3/4 of the thyme, basil, and fennel over the chicken in the pot, and the remaining spices over the breast pieces. Season all pieces with salt and pepper. Add garlic to the pot. Cover pot, reduce heat to medium, and cook 8 to 9 minutes. Return breast pieces to pot, then baste chicken with butter in pot. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through, turning and basting occasionally, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter, and cover.
Remove peel from garlic, then mash the cloves in the pot. Add vermouth or wine, then boil until reduced to about 3/4 c., occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan. Pour the pan juices into a measuring cup and reserve for sauce.
Off heat, whisk egg yolks in heavy small saucepan until beginning to thicken. Whisk in lemon juice and vermouth or wine. Gradually whisk reserved pan juices into eggs, a small bit at a time. Set sauce over a very low heat and whisk constantly until warm and slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in basil, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon chicken over sauce and serve. Enjoy!