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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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fondue de Poulet à La Crème; Chicken Simmered in Onions and Cream

I often try to imagine how certain recipes were developed or rather, what necessitated their creation.

Take, for example, one of my favorite food items of all: Ravioli. Some enterprising grandma in Italy probably found herself with a few scraps of meat on hand and a lot of hungry tummies to fill. What to do? Grind the meat, add fillers, lots of tasty spices, and place tiny morsels of it between pillows of pasta. Presto! The family loved it and all went to bed happy and sated.

Meanwhile, a French grandma found herself with an abundance of cream on hand. She’d already made all the butter she could use and the litre of cream was about to sour. What to do? Simmer a chicken in it. Voila! Fondue de Poulet à La Crème.

Julia, of course, took the lusciousness of this recipe, pointed it skyward and shot it off into the stratosphere.

A chicken is basted in butter and onions -- I used the equivalent of chicken thighs – and it receives just a whisper of curry powder. White wine and Cognac are added and reduced.

Now for the cream.

A cup of cream is appealing. Two cups would be over the top.

So, this recipe calls for three cups of cream. (Remember, the French grandma.) Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I browned some mushrooms in butter because I had them on hand and needed to use them.

The chicken gets simmered for half an hour, but frankly, I think it could use quite a bit longer in its cream-jacuzzi. Julia has us remove the chicken, reduce the sauce even more and touch it up with some fresh cream and lemon juice.

I came up with a pretty scrumptious salad if I do say so myself. Baby spinach, grape tomatoes and diced mango was dressed with orange olive oil and tangerine balsamic vinegar.

That orange oil and tangerine vinegar combo is just about the best thing you’ve ever tasted. It’s available at a cute little oil and vinegar shop here in Chicago called Old Town Oil. If you’ve got a foodie friend for whom you’d like to buy a gift but don’t know what to get, there you go.

Serving this recipe over rice is perfect. As a matter of fact, plain rice with this sauce would be a slice of heaven – forget the chicken.

A nearby farmer’s market sells this Japanese hybrid of corn that is known for its sweetness. I can eat four ears in a sitting. This was the last day the corn was available so I obviously took advantage of it.

If you want to prepare a Julia Child recipe that’s pretty easy and has a big voila-factor, this would be the way to go.

Three cups of cream. You only live once. Go for it.

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