St. Julia’s Day 2011

In my mad rush to complete a head cheese I almost forgot that St. Julia’s Day – Julia Child’s birthday – was August 15, and I had promised to cook one of her recipes on her birthday each year. A bit of scrounging in the Belm Utility Research Kitchen and the Deep Storage Facility turned up the ingredients for a classic fricassée de poulet à l’ancienne: chicken fricassee. I could make it in one pot, it would take less than two hours, and the cooking technique was dead simple.

I started with a cut up chicken, mirepoix, four tablespoons of butter, and three tablespoons of flour.

I sweated the vegetables in the butter, added the chicken, and cooked it for about four minutes. I covered the pot, lowered the heat, and cooked for an additional ten minutes, turning the chicken once.

I sprinkled the chicken with flour, salt, and white paper, making sure it was evenly coated, then let it cook for an additional four minutes.

I poured in three cups of hot chicken stock and a cup of white wine, added a herb bouquet (parsley, bay leaf, and thyme), and brought the mixture to a simmer.

While the chicken simmered I prepared some braised pearls onions

…and some stewed mushrooms.

After half an hour of simmering, I removed the chicken from the pot and brought the liquid to a boil, reducing it until it thickened. I slowly ladled the liquid into a mixture of two egg yolks and half a cup of cream, whisking the entire time to prevent the eggs from curdling.

I strained the sauce into a clean pan, corrected the seasoning with nutmeg and lemon juice, and boiled for an additional minute.

I returned the chicken to the original pot, added the mushrooms and onions, and then the sauce, and let everything heat up for five minutes.

I served the chicken and vegetables over buttered noodles with a parsley garnish.

A dish as simple as braised chicken in a classic reduction sauce depends on the quality of its ingredients – homemade stock and a locally-raised chicken are an absolute must. You want the dish to taste like chicken, not an approximation, and this version delivered. All it needed was a side of buttered green beans and a glass of chardonnay.

Once you’ve mastered this recipe you can create three more variations with simple additions: add curry powder or paprika after the initial sweat of the chicken and vegetables, or add tarragon along with the stock and wine. I anticipate trying all three this fall.

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