Tag Archives: Chef

The perfect Sunday Roast

AFTER MY LAST POST ON THE INCREDIBLE JULIA CHILD I THOUGHT I’D SHARE A FAVOURITE RECIPE OF MINE; POULET AUX QUARANTE GOUSSES D’AIL, or CHICKEN WITH FORTY CLOVES OF GARLIC.

 

The first time I had this dish must have been when I lived in France for some time and God it was incredible. Both the dish and my time there, that is. The amount of garlic might sound a bit heavy but since they’re roasted, or cooked rather, together with the chicken, wine, herbs and vegetables in the oven they get this nutty sweet and really mild taste which complements the chicken and creates a beautiful base for the sauce. After having tried my way forward with different recipes and my own inventions I think this is as good as it gets.

I decided to illustrate the recipe with a fair amount of pictures and I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible. So here we go, and bonne chance!

POULET AUX QUARANTE GOUSSES D’AIL

Serves four

You need:
2 sprigs of rosemary
5 sprigs of thyme
5 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
2 celery stalks, one with the leaves left
1 whole chicken of about 1 ½ kg.
40 unpeeled garlic cloves
olive oil
1 carrot
1 smallish onion
2 ½ dl. dry white wine
2/3 dl. double cream
salt, black pepper, white pepper

sprigs of herbs for garnish
Start with preheating the oven to 200°C (400°F / Gas mark 6).

Chop the carrot and celery stalk roughly. Peel and cut the onion in four wedges. Put aside the carrot, onion and half of the celery for the moment.

Fill the chicken cavity with half the chopped celery (the bit with the leaves), the rosemary, half of the thyme, half of the parsley and six of the garlic cloves. Tie the legs together and tuck the wing tips under so they don’t burn.

Now brush the chicken all over with a royal splash of olive oil. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. I personally prefer a combination of black and white pepper.

Scatter the base of a large casserole dish with twelve garlic cloves together with the remaining sprigs of herbs, the chopped carrot, chopped celery and the onion wedges.

Put the chicken on top of the herbs and vegetables. Throw the remaining cloves of garlic around the chicken. Finally add a tablespoon olive oil and the white wine. Cover with a heavy lid and bake in the oven for 80 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear when you pierce a thigh with a thin skewer.

When the chicken is ready, lift it out of the casserole dish and put it aside. Keep the chicken warm on a plate by covering it with aluminium foil.

Strain the juices from the casserole dish into a saucepan, pressing the last bit of goodiness out of the vegetables with a spoon. Pick the garlic cloves out of the sieve with a tong and put aside for later. Spoon off the fat from the juices and discard the fat. Boil the juices for five minutes to reduce and thicken slightly. Add the cream, season and taste the sauce. Boil for two more minutes.

If you want a slightly thicker sauce, make a roux using one tablespoon white flour and almost equal amount soft butter. You need just slightly less butter than flour. Stir until you get a smooth paste.Add a third of the roux to the sauce and bring to the boil slowly, whisking carefully all the time. If you find it doesn’t thicken enough add another third of the roux. Repeat the process until you’re satisfied with the thickness of the sauce.

Uncover the chicken and cut it into serving portions. You can either serve it on plates directly or on a large serving dish. Either way, drizzle a little of the sauce over the chicken and scatter the garlic cloves, still in their peel, around the chicken. Garnish with sprigs of herbs.

Serve with steamed haricots verts and/or freshly baked bread.

Bon appétit chers amis!

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How she mastered the Art of French Cooking

When I grew up there was always a weighty tome, a two volume cookbook that stood in the bottom cupboard in the service room among other cookbooks and foodie magazines. It was always consulted on special occasions, but more often than not it was put away again because of the vast, expansive, almost encyclopaedic length of the recipes. But when there was time and effort put in and one of the recipes were used, we could be sure of the astounding result of the meal that awaited us. Those of you who have any knowledge of French cooking, and cookbooks on French cuisine bourgeois in particular, know exactly what I’m talking about by now. And, more importantly, whom I talk about. This is a tribute to the marvellous Julia Child and her little gem of a book My life in France.

I guess I really should write about Julia Child’s cookbooks, and in particular Mastering the Art of French Cooking. However, so much needs to go into a post like that that I simply don’t have the time right now. Maybe another day, but not today. If you’re a serious foodie I’m sure you know enough on the subject anyway.

My life in France is a sweet little gem of a book co-written with her husband Paul’s nephew Alex Prud’homme in 2004/2005. It was finished in the year after her death with the help of all the letters she and Paul had written from the 1940s through to his death in the early 1990s, and hours of taped and written down conversations between Alex Prud’homme and Julia in her house in Montecito, California. What’s so wonderful about the book is the honesty to life and the serious love of food and France she manages to convey between the carefully handled lines written by Alex Prud’homme. If you saw the movie Julie & Julia earlier this year you will recognise a lot of the content since this is the book that is the background to the biographical parts of the film where Meryl Streep plays Julia Child. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching the movie for her unsurpassed characterisation alone.

Something else that is striking about the book is that it isn’t just on Julia Child and her way to greatness. It is more concerned with telling the story about how she and her husband Paul enjoyed, discovered and loved in their adopted new home country, how they struggled finding decent places to live in Paris and around France just after the Second World War. How it was damp, cold, hard to find anywhere that was insulated enough, had working gas heaters, running water inside etc. Paul Child’s photos describe this beautifully. He was a truly talented artist with an avid interest in photography. Not just pictures of Julia and her cookery-bookery (as she called it) life is included, there are also a fair amount of beautiful pictures from Paris, Marseille and the trips they did together around La Belle France. One is also taken on the journey of the struggles she and her colleagues Simone Beck (affectionately called Simca after a cheap, tiny and not very reliable Renault car she drove) and Louisette Bertholle had with getting their masterpiece of a cookbook published at all. Numerous publishers said no and others wanted it to be shortened and abbreviated into virtual nothingness. Luckily for us today they were proud and said no to silly suggestions like that and waited until they found someone who wanted to publish it in its entirety.  If they hadn’t carried on with their quest to educate the American housewife in cooking proper food, we would have lost an all-important link to the greatest food tradition in Europe, if not in the World.

The courses Julia Child took at Le Cordon Bleu in the 1950s’ might not haven been worth much, but the chefs she met there, and who recognised her enthusiasm and took her under their culinary wings, was the last living links to the great tradition of the French cuisine bourgeois. The chapters where she describes how chef Max Bugnard takes her to his favourite butchers, fish mongers and vegetable stalls in Les Halles and teaches her to recognise this, that and the other are just amazingly inspiring! They also make me furious that I will never be able to visit Les Halles, this mysterious, today unreachable food Mecca with its weird personalities and fascinating stall holders. And most importantly, what wouldn’t I give to have had the opportunity to taste the famous soupe a l’oignon first hand.

Maybe, though, this is part of the mystery and beauty that surrounds the French cuisine and its reputation that makes it so alluring. The lost connection with the chefs and the now partly lost tradition of manual cooking and how to recognize good produce thanks to the enormous supermarkets that have turned the village markets into a novelty too expensive to be frequented by anyone else than tourists. Would it be better to be back to how it was? Probably not. I’m a romantic born and bred, but even I can see the advantages of a society that have advanced from privies, no running water inside and rats in the kitchen. Still, if you want a touch of La Vieille France, Julia Child’s book is a must. If you’re a serious French foodie, you can’t live without having read it.

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