Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Chicken a la Julia and a Clafoutis...sort of...

So, today's culinary adventure revolved around a few "new" things for me. What better way to learn than through trial by fire, right? Ha. I've only recently begun to eat fish and organic poultry after over a decade of vegetarianism. I could get into the reasons, but perhaps another time. First up was roasted potatoes with onion - then steamed green beans with shallot in walnut oil, and to up the ante, I cracked open my brand new "Mastering the Art of French Cooking vol. 1" (courtesy of my sister for my Birthday) by none other than a trio of brilliant cooks including Miz Julia Child to figure out what the heck to do with the chicken.

Mr. Pleasant totally got me hooked on these little custard cups -
makes me feel like a reg-U-lar TeeVee cook!

Everything but the chicken went as expected, which I was not entirely sure about - having hardly prepared chicken at all. The first annoyance was the time it took for the thicker-than-your-average cut to thaw, and then how much longer said thick cuts took to cook. I should have just sliced the suckers in half, but alas, I did not till later in the cooking when the exteriors were perfect and the insides were still decidedly uncooked. So, they got a little overcooked, but not to the point where they were inedible. Luckily, my first pan deglazing went quite well and the sauce helped moisten up the slightly overcooked chicken.

So, presentation isn't the best ever, but here's dinner!

Dessert was an adventure - Mr. Pleasant was in charge of removing my first attempt at a Clafoutis from the oven when I was at the grocery store - I came home to see most of the custard had escaped from its tart pan prison on to the cookie sheet around it (thank goodness I added that as an extra precaution!). Though it was a bit thinner than anticipated, not nearly as pretty as Orangette's version of it (which I was aiming for) it still tasted wonderful :)

Without further ado, the recipes of the evening:

Roasted Potatoes
(serves 3-4)

4-5 potatoes (yukon gold are my favorite)

2 Tbs olive oil

1 onion, sliced

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for greasing

Line jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly with olive oil. Peel potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Boil until just soft, or about 10 minutes on high heat. Drain and place on jelly roll pan. Add onion and olive oil, stirring to coat. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until beginning to brown. Stir, and return to oven for 5-10 minutes depending on how brown you want the spuds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Optional additions: rosemary, herbs de Provence, or a collection of whatever is fresh in your herb garden.

Steamed Green Beans with Shallot and Walnut Oil

1-2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half (if desired)

1 shallot, chopped

1 Tbs walnut oil

salt and pepper to taste

Steam green beans until bright green and tender-crisp. Remove and set aside. In frying or medium sized sauce pan, heat walnut oil on medium -high heat and add shallot. Saute for a moment (so the shallots sizzle slightly in the oil), turn off heat and add green beans, tossing to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Can be served warm, but more flavorful when served at room temperature.

Sauted Chicken Breasts

Adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", Bertholle, Beck, Child

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
1 C flour

for Deglazing

1 Tbs shallot, chopped
2/3 C broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs parsley, chopped

Heat oil and melt butter in frying pan. Coat chicken breasts with flour and place in pan at medium to medium-high heat. Cook 3 minutes per side, longer if necessary. Remove chicken from pan. Add shallot to butter and oil remaining in pan. Saute for a moment, then add broth and wine. Bring to a boil and reduce until thickened. Serve sauce over chicken, garnished with parsley.

Nectarine Clafoutis

adapted from Orangette

1 large nectarine, pitted and cut into wedges

3 large eggs

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup whole milk

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

A pinch of salt
½ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly butter a 9-inch pie dish*. Arrange the plum wedges, skin side down, in a decorative pattern on the bottom of the dish. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt, and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the flour over the batter, and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter gently over the plums, trying to disturb them as little as possible (some will float and move around no matter how gentle you are). Bake the clafoutis until puffed and nicely golden around the edges, about 45-50 minutes. Remove the clafoutis from the oven, and allow it to cool for a half hour or so, during which time you’ll see it deflate and settle a bit. Serve it warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.
Yield: 6-8 servings

* Ms. Orangette used a tart pan - as did I, but clearly, using a tart pan from which the bottom pops out was ill-advised. Ha!

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