Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Julia Project - Chicken Fricassee

Last week, still in a blogging-cooking daze after seeing the movie "Julie and Julia," I mentioned, oh...just in passing mind you....that I thought I was ready to tackle my big fat Julia Child cookbook from where it had been languishing on the bookshelf some 30-odd years. Always intimidated by the great chef of French cuisine, I just assumed my meager experience with cooking up tacos and the like (and hey - I make a pretty mean fish taco), that the thought of tackling one of Chef Julia's recipes of the two-plus page per recipe persuasion was just way - WAY - out there in terms of my readiness to prepare a decent rendition of any one of her creations.

But thanks, in large part, to further education by way of the many acclaimed television chefs gracing the airwaves (cable waves? satellite beams? Oh, heck - I can't keep up with the technology) of the Food Network, I have seen demos of some pretty fantastic dishes. So between the Food Network and now the movie I thought - well, shoot. You only live once, right? Right!

So I bought butter...lots and lots of butter...and a few other ingredients and decided to go for it. I thought a chicken dish was a safe entry into La Cuisine de Julia so I picked up some nice free-range, organic "parts" as well as the other ingredients. Well, almost.

Julia's recipe called for tarragon. But she didn't say fresh or dried in the bottle tarragon. Aha!! Enter my chance to show off a bit and buy FRESH tarragon. Which I did. Or so I thought. Until the moment I was to add this fragrant herb into the pan and realized I'd bought fresh...thyme. Oh,oh. Well now this was quite a little pickle. Do I go with the fresh ingredient and change Ms. Child's recipe - perhaps irreparably? - or pull out the dried tarragon from the spice drawer. In the end I went with the dried. Dang!

But I am getting ahead of myself here. First things first: my nice chicken wouldn't fit into any of my pans, so I did it in batches. Here is about a third of the chicken browning away in about half a stick of butter...yes - REAL butter...hence the nice gleam and bubbly goodness simmering away below.....yeah, I know, this dude had three legs - go figure!
Now...once the chicken was browned, there is a little more cooking needed and at this point the "10 or 20" small fresh onions were added. And although Julia said I could, I chose fresh onions over the frozen ones. I was proud of myself, peeling all those itty-bitty onions - 21 of them, in fact; ok, I can't count, either.
And then, of course, the dad-gummed dried tarragon! But you gotta admit it - tarragon and chicken go together like Angelina and whats-his-face.
Also into the pool went a couple of cups of chicken stock (ok, this was the kind in a box - but hey! it was organic!) as well as a nice French Vermouth and eventually some quartered fresh mushrooms.

Now. Man does not live by chicken alone, so I halved some fresh figs, added a bit of creme fraiche and a pecan and voila! Now, I do not take credit for this lovely little side dish. My good friend Greta served this to our other good friend Rosie and I at her "slumber party" last week - which I haven't blogged about because I am SOOOOO way behind. Whatever. The figs were nummy!

Finally the chicken was done...I spooned it over fragrant Jasmine rice and headed for the dinner table. Ralph said it was "delicious" and I agreed - except there were a couple of minor modifications I'd make if I was to do the dish again. And I mean NO disrespect to the master, Ms. Child.

First, I'm just not a big fan of browning chicken in a pan with its skin all brown and getting crispy only to pour on the liquids, which then makes the skin sort of ookey...Which is a highly technical cooking term. So I think next time I'd choose skinned chicken pieces - but not boned because cooking chicken on the bone does impart the nice flavor and keeps the chicken juicy.

Second, I would definitely reduce the sauce. By removing the chicken when it's done and keeping it warm under a nice tent of foil, I could turn that flame up to the Smokin' Hot setting on the dial and reduce the sauce down by half - at least. You know how those sauce reductions taste...Yes, three little words describe a reduction perfectly: Fab. U. Lous!

THEN, once the sauce is reduced down, the chicken, mushrooms and those beautiful oniony pearls can go back into the pool for a little re-introduction to the sauce before pouring it over - or serving alongside that nice bed of rice. I chose the beautifully fragrant Jasmine.

So the chicken fricassee? All in all: a successful dish. Especially for the first trip out of the chute on the Julia Child Hot Tamale Train :)

Yep - I'd give it a solid...B :)

And if you've made it all the way to the end of this post - Merci! And stay tuned for more "Cooking with Julia" right here in Mushroom City....Au Revoir for now :)

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