January 4, 2016 – January 10, 2016
Monday: Chicken Jardinière w/ Green Salad
Tuesday: Leftovers with Salad
Wednesday: Hanoi Chicken Soup w/ Toasted Bread
Thursday: I forget
Friday: Steamed Fish w/ Provencal Vegetable Stew
Saturday: Dunnings Holiday Party at Hilda and Tim’s– Steelers v. Bengals
Sunday: Sausage and Escarole Soup w/ Avocado Toasts
Last week’s cooking was phenomenally good, if we do say so ourselves. And we do. It was vastly enhanced by that roller-coaster of a football game finally won by our Stillers over the hapless Bengals. (If I could feel sorry for a group of felons, they would be it.) But this blog is about food, not sports. Among much good food, the ”keepers” this week were Hilda’s Chicken Tetrazzini at the Dunnings Annual Holiday Party hosted most graciously by she and Tim, the steamed fish with Provencal Vegetable Stew, and the Hanoi Chicken Soup. But the keeper of the week was Jacques Pépin’s “Chicken Jardinière.”
What, you are saying? Chicken again, in a sort of casserole again, as the Keeper of the Week? Well, yes – and keep in mind, that you don’t have to cook or eat this food, you only have to read about it. But (a) we do usually have one or more chicken dishes each week, and (b) this dish was loved from the get-go by SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed – for those of you who have forgotten her moniker, aka “Beez”).
Now SWMBO liking something unconditionally, without suggesting a change in seasoning or a reduction in the use of butter or more heat or less breading, etc., is equivalent to the “Sally” of When Harry Met Sally ordering something as it appears on the menu without asking for skim, instead of whole milk, or holding the butter, or the garlic or the onions or, please bring the sandwich without the bread. So, the other night, when we served Chicken Jardinière and SWMBO, without any criticism or so much as a lifted eyebrow, said forthrightly, with no subordinate clauses or qualifications, “I could eat this every night and be happy” we knew that we were onto something. And despite your questioning our judgement (see beginning of paragraph), we have generously decided to pass along this something to you. The recipe for this dish appears just below the “Extra” section.
[Warning: three nights later we made our first attempt at Vietnamese cooking with Hanoi Chicken Soup and SWMBO declared: “IThis is really good.” Yes, there will be more chicken on this blog in the future – but hey, when was the last time you used reconstituted woodear mushrooms, cellophane noodles, and fish sauce?].
Extra: Avocado Toast. Look, there are all sorts of recipes for this – I saw one in the WSJ that called for using “avocado oil.” Skip that nonsense and simply take some ‘just ripe’ avocados, mash them with a fork, add some salt, pepper, lemon juice and red pepper flakes (just a little if your favorite sport is ballet – a good bit if you like soccer and “Die Hard” movies). Taste to make sure you like. Now toast some bread in a 425 oven, or brush it with olive oil and broil it for about a minute – watch it – it can burn, or fry it in a little oil in a hot skillet. Finally, spread the avocado mash, with some pieces of avocado in it, on the bread. Have some salt (Maldon sea salt flakes are best – not expensive – available at Whole Foods), a pepper grinder, and some red pepper flakes so that everybody can finish the toast the way they like. What could be simpler?
Jacques Pépin’s “Chicken Jardinière” (slightly modified)
If you have Jacque’s Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, go to page 202 and have at it, with this one suggestion – use three chicken breasts and more mushrooms and carrots than he calls for. Three breasts are what fit comfortably into most large skillets or Dutch ovens. If you’re cooking for more than 3, use two pots.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
4 Chicken legs (we used three) – a leg is a drumstick with thigh attached, I cut mine into separate thigh and leg pieces before cooking.
2.5 ounces lean pancetta cut into lardons (go to Labriola’s or buy the packaged stuff to the left of the deli section at Giant Eagle – or use bacon)
1.5 TBS peanut oil (we used 1)
1.5 TBS all-purpose flour
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp black pepper
¾ C fruity white wine (we used a sauvignon blanc)
¾ C water
8 small baby bella or crimini mushrooms (we used 12)
12 small red potatoes (we peeled what was easy to peel and left some peel on the potatoes – they looked a bit like those hipster girls with one side of their heads shaved)
16 pearl onions
1.25 cups diced (1”) carrots (we used 1.5 C plus, diced about ½”)
1.5 TBS coarsely chopped garlic
Fresh thyme sprig
1 cup frozen peas (we used nearly 2 cups – let the peas thaw some)
2 TBS chopped parsley for garnish
Here’s how to cook this (total time, remember to chop and prepare everything before cooking) is about 75 minutes):
Sautè the lardons in the peanut oil over high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and sauté, turning once, 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle with flour, salt and pepper and move the chicken around to get it coated evenly while cooking for a minute or two, then add the water and wine and mix. Now add the potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, garlic and thyme and mix well. Bring to a full boil (i.e., every part of your pot should be boiling), then cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. You can hold the dish at this point and reheat before finishing. To finish, add the peas, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Serve on individual plates or on a large platter and garnish with the parsley. We would offer some good bread – the Italian Stecca we make, e.g. – or grilled or toasted bread along with this.