I’m back. Ripples, clouds and rhythms of all that is France still moving through me. I miss the air and and the chocolate I eat before my coffee and the Wine, and the cheese I fell madly and entirely in love with and the view from the Fortress of Chinon of slate roofs and exquisitely pointed turrets in the village below. If you eat, drink and breath a country, you bring it home.
Get your Veruca Salt&Frank Black on and start simmering 40 cloves of garlic in stock for a seared chicken only better dressed with a jewel of Beurre Rouge and a saute of wild mushrooms spilled over the top. We served it with tiny bundles of braised leeks and carrots and thinly sliced pomme de terre flipped around in the pan with butter and herbs until they were deep brown and crispy on the edges, finished with a shaving of black truffle.
If you have it in you, keep going with tiny pots of creme brulee made with fresh heavy cream, a vanilla bean and a crackle of sugar.
Chicken with Thyme and Poached Garlic
Bring a small saucepan of homemade chicken stock to a simmer. AAdd 3 heads of garlic–cloves separated from each other–but no need to peel. Give your little poaching liquid of pinch of salt, a grind of pepper and a thyme sprig. Let it happen slowly for about 40 minutes.
Marinate chicken breasts with olive oil, thyme, shallot, and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper and sear. When you are done searing, the garlic cloves should be ready as well. Take them out of the liquid (save the liquid for, who knows?) and toss onto the roasting sheet along with the chicken. Roast in the oven until the chicken is JUST doneâ€”no longer. Let it rest and serve it room temperature (thatâ€™s the way itâ€™s done.)
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add a celery top, a bay leaf, peppercorn, a thyme sprig, a parsley frond and a dash of olive oil.
Add 2 1/2 pounds of leeks that have been cut into four-inch lengths, cleaned and tied into bundles along with 2 pounds of carrots that have been cut into the same length. Add more water as needed to cover. Adjust the salt to taste. Simmer until tender. Remove from the liquid. Toss with butter.
Reduce the liquid, adding a little white wine if you like and save to add to a soup, or to moisten the vegetables before serving, or to make into a gravy.
Choose the most beautiful and interesting mushrooms that you can find. Remove the dirt with a paper towel, and give them a rough chop. Color a clove of garlic in some olive oil, remove the garlic from the pan, and add the mushrooms. Without adding salt, or moving them around once the hit the pan, add the mushrooms in a single layer. Donâ€™t overcrowd. Once they pick up a little golden brown, season with salt, and stir them around until they are cooked through. Throw in a sprig of thyme, a bit of finely minced shallot, and remove the mushrooms from the pan. Repeat with the rest of the mushrooms. At the end, throw all of the mushrooms back in the pan, and just because we are in France, add a tiny bit of butter, then a sprinkle of flour. At the end, a pour of heavy cream or crÃ¨me fraiche. Toss and taste. Oui, oui!.
If you are really feeling it, make yourself some Beurre Rougeâ€”same recipe for Beurre Blanc, just substitute a beautiful red wine for the white wine and vinegar. Itâ€™s gorgeous with roasted chicken. 1 cup of red wine reduced with a few tablespoons of chopped shallot and a sprig of fresh thyme. When reduced to a few tablespoons, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream, reduce another minute, and then bit by bit, 2 sticks of cold butter. Keep warm over a bain marie.
Donâ€™t despair. Itâ€™s a lot of cooking, but weâ€™re in Franceâ€”we can do it.
This is a big crispy on the bottom and tender in the middle affair. It shouldnâ€™t be too fussy, but if you have the opportunity to make the traditional way with goose or duck fat, fuss away. Otherwise, butter and olive oil. Donâ€™t be shy with itâ€”about 5 tablespoons and some fresh herbs are fine. Slice about 2 pounds of potatoes thinly and heat up a heavy sautÃ© pan with gently sloping sides. Add the potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes. Give them a shove a few times, but not too much. Stir in a chopped truffle or 3 garlic cloves and continue to cook until beginning to brown on the bottom. Taste again for salt and pepper. If they need to be crispier on the bottom, give them another go without disturbing.
This is delicious. Bring to the simmer, 3 cups of heavy cream with 1 vanilla bean. When you see tiny bubbles forming around the edges of the pan, remove from the heat and allow to steep. (Mr. Pepin throws in a piece of orange zest.) Whisk separately, 6 egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar, adding the sugar in a thin stream, while you whisk constantly, until thickâ€”about 5 minutes. Stir some of the hot cream into the egg, by adding it just a drop at a time. When this is completed, you want to strain the mixture to remove any bits, as you pour the liquid into your ramekins (leaving room at the top.)
Set the ramekins into a baking pan and pour hot, but not boiling water around them, to come halfway up the top. Bake for about half an hour. Cool completely in the fridge, then cover the tops with a layer of brown sugar and broil or torch until bubbly and smooth.