My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poulet Sauté aux Herbes de Provence

Chicken Sautéed with Herbs and Garlic, Egg Yolk and Butter Sauce

After spending hours in the kitchen with Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, and Bavarian Creams, it was really refreshing to crank out something this impressive and delectable in under thirty minutes. And with a side of Julia's asparagus to boot.

Seriously, if you want to serve an entree from Mastering that is exceedingly quick and delicious, this is the way to go. It would make Rachel Ray, (that sylph from the 30 minute meal program) smile even more than she does already.

The fact that this recipe utilizes just about every pronounced flavor from Provence (garlic, lemon, basil, fennel, thyme) -- all the better.

Three pounds of chicken are basted in a stick of butter. Again, I did the "unthinkable" and used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken. And again, I've done it both ways and the thighs are more appealing, at least to me anyway.

The chicken is coated with thyme, basil, ground fennel, and garlic is introduced.

Once the chicken is done (about fifteen minutes) it is removed and white wine is added to the chickeny juices and reduced.

Meanwhile, the beginnings of a Hollandaise are started. Two egg yolks are whisked until thick and a touch of lemon juice and white wine is added.

Once the flavorsome chicken/wine broth has reduced, teaspoonfuls of it are whisked into the egg yolk mixture.

Egg yolks really are amazing things. Here, you have just two of them but when the hot, buttery, winey juices are added in just the right manner, a pan full of rich, creamy sauce materializes right before your eyes. Whisk in three more tablespoons of soft butter and you have one of those Classic sauces -- the ones that French restaurants back in the 1960s used to max out your American Express for.

Spoon it over the chicken, scatter with fresh basil, and get ready to savor every bite.

I served it with Julia's recipe for asparagus.

Again, this is one of those astounding recipes that elevates chicken to new levels. It's really pretty unbelievable when you taste it. Not only does it have that rich, buttery Hollandaisey sauce, but there's also the punctuation of lemon, thyme, garlic, basil and a licoricey fennel undertone.

Julia's treatment of asparagus is basically sauteing it in butter, covering it with chicken broth, simmering it down to a syrup and finishing it with a touch of lemon. And you've never tasted more asparagussy asparagus than this, trust me.

A Julia classic all done in under thirty minutes. Do you hear that Rachel Ray?

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