julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

Easy Does It

 

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“Supremes de Volaille Archiduc is a very familiar kind of dish, nothing haute about it.  Only a couple of steps are different, and both, it winds up, refine the taste a good deal. It was, I must say, absolutely excellent. We ate the chicken breasts napped in the sauce.  I proceeded to eat leftover sauce off a wooden spoon dipped into the casserole for the rest of the night. Yeah, that diet thing’s gonna happen.  Any day now.” – Julie Powell 

I don’t know about you, but this has been a pretty exhausting week. Between Monday’s excitement with the Pioneer Woman, and planning a big work event for Wednesday, I’ve gotta say…I’m wiped out. The good news is that Julia Child offers some recipes that are pretty simple, with tasty results. (I wonder if Julia ever felt wiped out? It certainly doesn’t seem possible.) 

Wednesday night I dragged my weary body into the kitchen and was able to come up with a pretty darn good meal, for someone who was a little bleary eyed. The menu consisted of Supremes de Volaille Archiduc (chicken breasts with paprika, onions and cream) with Frozen Asparagus (yep, it’s in the book!) topped with Sauce Crème (cream enrichment) and a side of Chou-Fleur aux Tomates Fraiches (cauliflower gratineed with cheese and tomatoes).

Cauliflower and tomato strips

The dish that took the longest to prepare was the cauliflower, and even that wasn’t bad. I cut a head of cauliflower into florets and blanched them in boiling water, then ran them under cold water and drained them in the sink. Meanwhile, I prepared PSJ tomatoes and cut the pulp into half-inch strips. The cauliflower was poured into the center of a buttered baking dish, and I situated the tomatoes around the perimeter. A slight dusting of salt and pepper gave the veggies an added kick, and I drizzled a bit of melted butter over the top. A combination of shredded Swiss cheese and white bread crumbs topped the dish, along with a bit more melted butter, and the whole thing was put in a 375 degree oven for about a half-hour. 

The sauce thickens up with the addition of the whipping cream.

Next I made the cream sauce for the asparagus. The first step is to make a Bechamel sauce (a combination of flour, butter and stock) and bring it to a simmer on the stove. I beat in whipping cream by spoonfuls until the sauce was the thickness I liked. I added a bit of salt and pepper to taste and set the sauce aside. 

The chicken, similar to the recipe I made last time, was quick and easy and again, a big success. I patted a couple of chicken breasts dry with paper towels and drizzled them with lemon juice and a bit of salt and pepper. Meanwhile, I boiled minced onions for a minute, drained them and ran them under cold water, drained them again and cooked them slowly in a pan with butter, salt and paprika over low heat. With tongs, I set the chicken into the pan and rolled it around in the butter, covered the pan with buttered wax paper and put it in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. (Julia says 6, but when I took the meat out it was still obviously pink on the outside. Ten minutes seems to be just right.) 

As an aside, for some reason I can’t quite explain, any time I put wax paper in the oven, it sets off my smoke detector, which is located down the hall and around the corner from the kitchen (never mind the distance…it always seems to pick up on culinary hazards). I don’t understand it – there isn’t really any smoke, but there is a bit of a funky smell that comes from the oven when the paper is in there. Anyone else have this problem?

Back to the chicken. 

Boiled asparagus ready for its cream sauce

After ten minutes, I took the chicken out (perfection!) and removed it to a side plate. Adding a little brown stock and whipping cream to the pan, I brought the sauce to a boil and stirred with a wooden spoon. I added a little salt and pepper to taste, and it was done! 

The very last thing I made was the asparagus, because it only has to cook for about five minutes until it’s done. I brought a pot of water, salt and butter to a boil and added the package of frozen asparagus. With a cover on the pan, I let it cook until it was done. It was a little limp, as Julia said it would be (when it comes to asparagus, limpness is unavoidable), but I let the remaining liquid cook off and then moved the veggies into a serving bowl. 

It's so good, you'll wish you'd made more.

The meal was delicious. I still can’t get over how great this method of cooking chicken is! (Luckily for me there are still a few more of these chicken recipes left to complete…yessss!) The meat is so tender and juicy, you can cut into it with a fork. The cream sauce was light and delicate, and added a wonderful hint of sweetness to the meat. I didn’t notice the paprika as I thought I would, which I think is a good thing. All of the flavors really came together nicely. The cauliflower was also very good – even Ben commented on how much he liked it (he who thinks cauliflower has no taste). The bread crumb/cheese topping gave a light crispiness to the dish, while the cauliflower was tender and scrumptious. The tomatoes, of which I was a bit skeptical, added a nice flavor to the dish as well. The asparagus was just okay – what do you want from a package of frozen greens? – but the sauce really brought it up to a new level. This sauce was much thicker than the cream sauce on the chicken, but I think it needed to be to match the robust pieces of asparagus. While I always prefer my vegetables au natural, this sauce was a nice addition. 

I shoulda stopped while I was ahead...

The other night, I made another super simple meal to help ward off a sore throat that’s been nagging me for a week: Soupe a l’Oeuf, Provencale (garlic soup with poached eggs). I boiled a separated head of unpeeled garlic for a few minutes, which softened them and made them easier to peel. I tossed the peeled garlic cloves into a pot of water, olive oil (only half of the recommended amount, as I remembered the last time I made the master recipe I found the taste to be too oily) and seasonings (salt/pepper, sage, thyme, cloves, parsley and bay leaf). While the water boiled for a half-hour, I prepared a few canapés and poached a couple of eggs (I must not have been feeling the rhythm last night…it took me six eggs to successfully poach two!). 

I strained the soup into a big bowl through a sieve, pressing the juice from the garlic. In smaller bowls I set a canapé, topped it with a poached egg, and ladled the soup into the bowl. It looked and smelled wonderful, but remembering my last brush with the master recipe, I was doubtful that I would like this dish. 

*shudder*

Sure enough, it was like I remembered – oily and odoriferous, yet rather bland. It was like drinking a flavorless perfume. However, I will say that when I took a bite of soup that contained some canapé and egg, it was MUCH better. But as Ben said, “I’d rather just have the canapé and egg!” So we ditched the soup and used our resources more creatively. Ben cooked a couple of eggs over easy, which we set on top of our remaining canapés and topped with the cream sauce from Wednesday’s chicken. And you know what? It was delicious. Sometimes all it takes is a little ingenuity to come up with a really tasty meal. 

After the week I’ve had, I am so happy it’s Friday. Got any fun plans this weekend? I’ll be cooking…and baking! Rev up your sweet tooth and stay tuned for more culinary adventures as we knock out more recipes on the quest for a trip to Paris… 

TGIF!
– Jessica

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2 Responses to “Easy Does It”

  1. Jessica says:

    Okay – question for you. You mention that you prepped PSJ tomatoes like it’s totally no big deal. I swear, every time I try to PSJ tomatoes, it takes like 45 minutes. I’ve totally given up and now I just chop up those suckers and deal with the seeds and skin lowering the quality of the dish, rather than try to separate it all out. Did you already write about this? How on earth do you do it so quickly and easily?

    • Jessica says:

      Ooh, good question! The first time I tried it, it was pretty disastrous – then I realized the trick was to let the tomatoes sit in boiling water for a couple of minutes, which loosens the skin and softens the insides. Once they’re done boiling (you’ll see the skin starting to peel itself), I use tongs to hold them under running cold water (to cool them off so I can handle them without burning my hands…that’s the voice of experience talking). Then I finish peeling the skins off, cut them in half crosswise, and now they’ll be really soft so when you squeeze the seeds/juice out of them, it’s super easy. (The only drawback is they can be a little too soft, but I’d rather have pulp on the slightly mushy side than battle the firm, uncooked tomato.) If you haven’t already, give this a try and let me know what you think. :)

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