Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fowl Weather

Yesterday was yuck. The weather was rainy, windy, and generally atrocious; my doctor's appointment ran late; the only food in my system was a croissant, two cups of coffee, and a slice of chocolate layer cake from Juniors. I had a headache and was (barely) functioning on very little sleep.

And then.... The clouds parted, the sun came out, and suddenly it was beautiful Friday evening and all was good in the world. My original dinner plan of chicken slowly braised in beer suddenly seemed like an inappropriate dish for a spring evening. I was all set to break out the limes and tequila, when crash! The rain began again, the wind howled, and the limes would have to wait a few more days. James Villas' French Country Kitchen came off the shelf for one more winter go-round.

Villas' chicken recipes are some of my favorites in the poultry canon. They're consistently delicious and not terribly time-consuming -- which is an important detail for a tired Friday night dinner with friends coming over. His recipe for chicken simmered in Riesling is one of my absolute favorites, and is on heavy rotation throughout the year. But chicken braised in beer seemed to be the perfect antidote to the wet wind outside, and required little more than what we already had on hand.

While the chicken cooked and filled the apartment with inviting smells, my boyfriend quickly cooked up Villas' country omelet with walnuts, potato, parsley and chives. Served over greens, it was a lovely and light first course, and will likely take its more rightful center stage in the months to come.

The moral of the story is that in foul weather, there is nothing better than a few good friends and a great chicken recipe to put you in a wonderfully fowl mood.

Chicken Braised in Beer
(from James Villas' French Country Kitchen)

2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 4lb chicken, cut into serving pieces (we used thighs and drumsticks instead)
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 T. gin (we omitted this)
1 1/2 cups dark beer or ale
bouquet garni: 1/4 t. dried thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 2 parsley sprigs tied in cheesecloth
salt and pepper
3/4 lb. mushrooms, quartered
3 T. heavy cream (optional, but recommended)
2 T. parsley

In a large, heavy casserole, heat butter and oil. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides and brown on all sides over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir and cook until lightly browned. Add the gin and ignite. Add the beer, bouquet garni, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Transfer the chicken and mushrooms to a heated platter and keep warm. Discard the bouquet garni from the casserole, add the cream, increase the heat, and reduce until the sauce thickens. Taste the sauce for seasoning, pour it over the chicken, and sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Omelette Fermiere

5 T. butter
1/4 cup finely chopped potato
1/4 cup finely chopped country ham (we omitted this)
4 walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 T. minced parsley and chives
6 large eggs
1 T grated Gruyere cheese (we omitted this, but it would be welcome next time)

In a skillet, heat 2 T. of the butter. Add the potato, ham, and walnuts and saute over moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring. Stir in the parsley and chives.

In a 10" omelet pan, heat the remaining butter. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan and stir with a fork over moderate heat just until the edges are set. Spoon the sauteed mixture quickly across the center and cook until the omelet is set but still very soft. Fold into thirds like a letter, and sprinkle cheese on top and serve.


kelli said...

I want to go find that cook book! I love that the search database is called catnyp! That's so funny...Thanks again, the tour of the library was a highlight of my trip! I can't wait to visit again, and plan on spending the days there.

Baroness V.O. said...

I finally made the chicken in beer -- thank you! It came out perfectly. I also skipped the gin, even tho I had it in the house I was too tired for an experiment in flambé.