Music: Granada – Isaac Albeniz (played live by Jamie!)
We didn’t watch the Golden Globes but we did eat good French food. Jamie and Kathryn, our newlywed friends, came over for dinner. It was a rainy night here in Brooklyn but they don’t live far and braved the weather to enjoy (hopefully) our meal. (I sense a theme, the last two Sunday dinners were a slushy mess too).
We realize we’ve been cooking a lot of French food. I don’t know what it is about French food but it seems like a natural entry into the cooking experience. I suppose it requires a level of patience and there certainly is the time you must invest in completing the oftentimes many (arduous and laborious) stages. Maybe it’s the possibility that if you can master this haute cuisine you can master any. If it’s off-putting or intimidating I offer you this: my 9-year old godkid called me last night and asks, “Have you seen Julie and Julia?” to which I reply, “No, I read the book though?” (I am behind many times – Avatar, what?). She then proceeds to tell me how she made Boeuf Bourguignon for dinner and how it was “so easy!”. Off-put that!
James went to Thirst on Dekalb to get a recommendation for a white and a red (to cook and drink) for the Coq au Vin and the Moules. They suggested the 2007 Chevillon Bourgogne Passetoutgrain (say what?) for the chicken and a 2008 Brun Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay (watch your mouth!) for the mussles. (On that note, anyone know of a good wine class to take to help me, well, classify wine? I never know how to do it).
What you’ll need for the chicken: I used a combination of Julia Child (appropriate), James Beard and Anthony Bourdain’s recipes (I wonder what a dinner with those three would be like?).8 slices of bacon cut into lardons 3 lbs. whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (I had this done at the butcher)
bag of pearl onions (around 2 cups) braised and browned (recipe below)
enough flour for dredging the chicken salt and pepper 3 cloves of garlic 4 cups of mushrooms 1 shallot chopped
4 carrots (peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces) 1/2 cup of Cognac 1 bottle of Burgundy wine 2 3/4 cups chicken broth a bouquet garni made of 5 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of parsley, 3 bay leaves 10 black peppercorns (tied in cheesecloth, if you have it).
3 tsp. of tomato paste 3 tbsp. olive oil
beurre manié (3 tbsp. flour and 3 tbsp. butter kneaded together)
- Start by braising the pearl onions.
- Place onions in boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Immediately blanch in cold water. When cool, cut the root end of the onion off and onion should easily pop out of skin.
- In a small skillet, melt 1 1/2 tbsp. butter with 1 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil. Over medium heat cook onions for 10 minutes. Move continuously and onions will brown.
- Add 1/2 cup of red wine or chicken/beef stock (I used a combo of both), 3 sprigs of parsley, and 2 sprigs of thyme. Place parchment paper lid over top (cut a small hole) and cook for 4o minutes until liquid evaporates.
- While onions braise, clean mushrooms. Cut mushrooms into quarters and saute in 1 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil and 1 1/2 tbsp. of butter) over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- In large Dutch oven, add 1 tsp. of olive oil. Add bacon and cook until fat renders off and bacon crisps. (After about 4 minutes I add a very little dash of cinnamon). Remove bacon and let rest on paper towel. Keep bacon grease in pan.
- Salt and pepper (generously) chicken. Then dredge in flour until fully coated.
- Brown chicken in bacon grease (you’ll need to do this in parts as you don’t want to crowd the pan). Each side will take about 4-6 minutes to brown (but it won’t fully cook). Remove chicken and let rest on paper towel.
- There may be a lot of bacon grease left over, in which case remove some and leave about 2 tbsp. left in pan.
- Add carrots to grease and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, mushrooms, onions and chicken back to pan. Saute for 2 minutes.
- Add Cognac and ignite with match (will burn off after 1 minute). This never gets old.
- Add bottle of wine and chicken stock.
- Place bouquet garni in liquid and stir. (I didn’t do it this time but next time I will because the herbs completely fell apart).
- Place cover on Dutch oven and simmer on low for 1 1/2 hours. After 30 minutes, add tomato paste.
- Remove cover and cook for additional 20 minutes.
- Add beurre manié to thicken stock.
- Serve and add bacon and parsley to garnish.
What you’ll need for the Potato Puree: This comes from Patricia Wells’ book Simply French based on the food of Joel Robuchon. A few weeks ago we had dinner at my friend Melissa’s house and she made mashed potatoes. She was upset because they came out a little lumpy (which I generally like) but this was so smooth and perfectly creamy that I might never go back! I can’t wait to give her the recipe.2 lbs of Russet potatoes 1 cup of milk 10 tbsp. of butter salt to taste
- Peel potatoes.
- Place them in large pot and add enough salted water to cover potatoes.
- Simmer over medium heat for 40 minutes.
- Drain and cool.
- While potatoes are cooking, heat milk in sauce pan.
- When potatoes are cool, run through the finest grid of your food mill. If you don’t have one you can shred through a cheese grater.
- Mix in butter, tablespoon by tablespoon.
- Slowly add milk until well combined.
- Salt for taste!
For the Moules Mariniere: I used the same Patricia Wells book.4 lbs of mussles 4 minced shallots 2 cups of dry white wine handful of parsley tied in a bundle with twine 2 tbsp. of butter fresh ground black pepper parsley to garnish
- Scrub the mussels and rinse them in water.
- If an open mussel closes when you press on it, its good to go. If it stays closed it should be discared (You’ll probably loose about 10-12 mussels).
- Beard the mussels.
- In a large pot, combine shallots, wine, parsley bouquet and butter. Boil over high heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the mussels and sprinkle generously with pepper.
- Cook, covered, for 5 minutes (mussels should open – discard ones that don’t).
- Transfer the mussels in to warm serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.