Archive for the ‘French’ Category

Poulet Provencal

April 30, 2012

Sounds fancy doesn’t it?  This is really chicken in a pot with olives and tomatoes.  And it’s darn good – fancy or not.  It’s terrifically easy too.  The perfect end to a day I spent working in Panera and B&N while some folks started the central air installation in my house.  After breakfast and lunch out I couldn’t face takeout.  I had a few friends stopping by tonight so I needed to make something that didn’t require a lot of prep time or a lot of attention.  My only regret is that no one stayed for dinner!  They really missed out.

I didn’t even have to go shopping this was so easy.  Just onions, tomatoes and olives.  A few herbs – a pretty modified version of herbes de provence – and that’s it.  In the end this is really just braised chicken.  Braising is about cooking meat with a combination of moist heat and dry heat.  What’s important here is making sure that the chicken isn’t submerged in the liquid.  That would be poaching or just plain boiling.  With the chicken on top of the vegetables and no lid on the pot it allows the liquid to cook from the bottom and the oven element to cook from the top.  I used the convection setting on my oven to get some additional dry heat from the air circulation.  That helped make a crispy, brown skin on the top of the chicken.  It was beautiful and so, so moist.

There are a lot of herbs in a true herbes de provence.  You have several options here.  If you don’t keep lots of herbs in the house you might be best off to buy a commercial herb mix.  That will be less expensive and you won’t end up with a cabinet full of spices you won’t use.  If you keep most or all of the necessary spices in the house you can mix your own.  I left out a lot tonight so this isn’t really a poulet provencal, but close enough for me.  I used 3 parts oregano and thyme to 1 part basil and parsley, plus some minced garlic, kosher salt, cracked black pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil.  That left out rosemary, savory, fennel seed and marjoram.  Like I said – close enough.

The recipe calls for braising a whole chicken. I had only thawed two large chicken breasts and honestly that was enough.  It takes about 45 minutes to cook pieces this large on the bone and another 10 before you should serve it or start pulling the chicken off the bone.  There’s very little chopping so the prep time is pretty short.  Plan for just over an hour from start to finish, but for most of that you’re not doing anything except smelling the yummy aromas coming from your oven.

As you see in the picture the presentation of the whole piece is beautiful.  These pieces were so large that they needed to be cut for eating anyway so I just pulled all the chicken off of the bones and mixed it in to the sauce.  It isn’t as pretty, but it’s a lot easier to eat.  If you’re serving guests (and you absolutely should) I recommend this approach.  Serve it with some rustic, crusty bread for soaking up the sauce.  Yum!

Good? Very good.  Sometimes simple flavors are the best.
Easy? Absolutely. The only thing fancy is the name.
Good for company? You bet.
Special shopping? Nope. Probably not even a grocery run.

Poulet Provencal

Ingredients

1 quart or one 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 large onion, cut into wedges, leaving root ends intact
1/2 cup drained brine-cured black olives, pitted if desired
4 large garlic cloves, sliced, plus 1 teaspoon minced
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, divided
2 large chicken breasts, with skin, on the bone or 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds)

Directions

Preheat convection oven to 400°F or regular oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

Toss together tomatoes, onion, olives, sliced garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 13- by 9-inch or other 3-quart shallow baking dish. Push vegetables to sides of dish to make room for chicken.

Stir together minced garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, remaining teaspoon herbes de Provence, and remaining tablespoon olive oil.

Rub chicken with seasoning mixture on top of and underneath the skin. If using a whole chicken tie legs together with string, then put chicken in baking dish.

For whole chicken roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of a thigh (do not touch bone) registers 170°F, about 1 hour in convection oven; 1 to 1 1/4 hours in regular oven. For split breasts roast 45 minutes.

Let chicken stand 10 minutes before carving. Serve with vegetables and pan juices.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet

September 20, 2010

I bet you thought I’d abandoned cooking in favor of takeout, cookies and swanky restaurants.  Yeah, my waistline thought so too, but really it was just vacation and business travel and another quick vacation.  So now I’m back and I’m increasing my time in the kitchen in hopes of decreasing said waistline.  It’s kind of autumnal in the evenings these days and winter squash was on sale so a squash cassoulet sounded like just the thing.  This dish defines creamy, earthy yumminess.

Cassoulet was invented in the south of France.  And it’s not just a fancy way to say casserole.  Where I come from casseroles include ‘cream of something’ soup and/or a pasteurized cheese product of some kind.  Not so a cassoulet.  A cassoulet is a slowed cooked one pot dish with beans and meat.  Not a lot in the way of meat here, but lots of very flavorful elements.  The name should really be Roasted Garlic, Caramelized Onion and Butternut Squash Cassoulet.  That would hit all of the time or labor intensive parts of this dish.

Roasting garlic is easy, but it takes about an hour so plan accordingly.  You’ll only use a quarter of the head for this, but worry not, roasted garlic can be stored.  You can either freeze it or keep it in a jar in the fridge.   If you go the fridge route put enough olive oil in the jar to cover the cloves.  It will keep about a month that way.  And you can use the oil in salad dressings and such.  Bonus!

Then it’s on to the caramelized onions.  These take about 30 minutes and they’re kind of a pain so do a whole bunch if you’re going to bother.  They’re good on everything.  Use them on burgers.  Use them to make an hors d’oeuvre with figs and Gorgonzola.  The whole deal here is that you sauté them low and slow to bring out the sugars in the onions.  Low and slow is the key.  If you try to speed up the process you’ll just end up with charred onions.   Charred onions have their place, but they are not a replacement for caramelized.  The good news is that these can be done ahead.

Now, the squash.  I’m always happier when recipes call for cooked winter squash.  Then you just have to de-seed them before roasting.  After that the heavy rind just peels away.  It works with acorn, butternut, pumpkin, whatever.  No reason to use canned or frozen winter squash.  Really.  But I digress.  This recipe calls for the squash to be peeled and cubed and then cooked in the dish with the other ingredients.  My advice.  Get a big knife.  And a smaller one.  You’ll need the big knife to quarter the squash.  You’ll need the smaller knife to remove the peel and cut the flesh into cubes.

Note that this is close to being a vegetarian recipe, but the pancetta is important.  Pancetta is a ham that is salt cured, but not smoked.  You can use bacon as a substitute if you’d rather.  It’s a lot cheaper than pancetta, but not quite as flavorful so you might need more than 2 ounces.  And it’s smoked so the taste will be different.  If you want to make this a completely vegetarian dish I suppose you could try using soy bacon, but I don’t want to know about that.  I might use a little more squash next time, but other than that no changes.

Good? Yes.
Easy? Time consuming to be sure.  And peeling a butternut squash can be a challenge the first time you do it.  Let’s call this intermediate.
Good for company? You bet.  Serve it with a bright citrus-y green salad to balance the earthy cassoulet.
Special shopping? Pancetta.

I only made half a recipe because that’s still four servings.  Seems like plenty.  I have adjusted the recipe below to reflect my changes.  The amounts are my only change.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet

Ingredients

  • 1  whole garlic head
  • 2  ounces  pancetta, chopped
  • 1  cups  vertically sliced onion
  • 1/2  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1/2  tablespoon  white wine vinegar
  • 2+  cups  (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/4  cup  organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried thyme
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  (16-ounce) cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1  (1-ounce) slices white bread
  • 2  tablespoons  grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon  olive oil
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap garlic head in foil. Bake at 350° for 1 hour; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Set half of garlic pulp aside; reserve remaining garlic pulp for another use. Discard skins.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove pancetta from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Add onion and 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 25 minutes or until onion is very tender and browned, stirring frequently. Stir in vinegar.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Add garlic pulp, pancetta, squash, and next 6 ingredients (through bay leaf) to onion mixture, stirring well. Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about 1 cup. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil; sprinkle evenly over squash mixture. Cover and bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until squash is tender. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until topping is browned. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley.