Monday, June 27, 2011

Provençale Chicken Supper & French Women Don't Get Fat

Provencale Chicken Supper

Provençale Chicken Supper

slow cooker meal that was delicious, but I needed to cook my dry beans more first.

Usually I'm not a slow cooker during summer person, but this year I've decided to try and keep the heat down as much as possible.  The slow cooker does not heat up my house like cooking over the stove does. So this recipe brings me to thinking of all things french.  One of the books that I like is the French Women Don't Get Fat. It seems to be pretty much a reminder to eat intuitively, exercise should be incorporated into your day without feeling like it's a chore, eat breakfast, drink water, relax more.  All those things we know we need to do, but can have difficulty figuring out how to manage them.  Let me share a small secret with you, the slow cooker does help me not stress so much about dinners.  I like to walk, and I've been biking to work when I can.  Here's the thing, I like her stories, they make me feel like I've traveled to the city of Paris.  I find it amusing and interesting.  What ever else you feel about the book, the recommendation to make your own yogurt was a good one.  I will always appreciate that little change I made in my life.  I will leave you with some recipes that I was able to get.

French Women Don't Get Fat

Stuffed Cornish Hens
Serves 4

When I grew up, the holidays always meant lots of visitors and a series of requisite celebratory meals, mostly at lunchtime. This easy dish was always on one of the menus. Mamie was usually busy (what else during late December?) and would make the stuffing in advance so lunch could be ready in less than an hour. The recipe serves a family of four for lunch in style, but double the ingredient portions and obviously you are ready for a full table with guests.

2 Cornish hens (or poussins)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons chicken stock
2 cups water
2/3 cup brown rice
1/2 cup mixed nuts (pine nuts, walnut pieces, whole hazelnuts)
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon parsley, freshly minced
1 teaspoon dry herbs (chervil and savory or rosemary and thyme)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. For stuffing: Bring water to a boil. Add rice and cook for 15 minutes. Drain and mix well with remaining ingredients. Season to taste and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Rinse Cornish hens, dry the inside with paper towels, and season. Add stuffing loosely and truss hens. Reserve remaining stuffing in aluminum foil.
3. Put hens in baking dish and brush them with melted butter and other seasonings. Put in oven and baste 10 minutes later with chicken stock. Continue basting every 10 minutes. After the hens have cooked for 20 minutes reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and put the remaining stuffing in a small ovenproof dish. Roast the hens for another 20 minutes. Serve (half a hen per person) immediately with a tablespoon of stuffing on each side of the hen as garnish.
N.B. For a wonderful tête-à-tête romantic dinner, serve one hen each with a vegetable then dessert. I have prepared it successfully to my husband on Valentine’s Day. While the hens are in the oven, you have time to concoct a little dessert, et voilà, you can pop a cork of bubbly, sit for candlelight dinner and have your husband serve dessert.
Hot Chocolate Soufflé
Serves 6

During the season of overindulgences—Christmas, New Year and all the festivities in between—there is in our home a succession of store-brought, traditional goodies: Bûche de Noël (yule log), marrons glacés (glazed chestnuts), the 13 desserts of Christmas in Provence. This is not to say that the holidays don’t bring out the baker in all of us, but whether it is to give as gifts or to maintain tradition, people do load up with holiday sweets from pastry shops (as I can attest from seeing from the window of our Paris apartment the annual long lines of people outside the pastry shop across the street). When I grew up, however, come New Year’s Day, and there was a home-cooked chocolate ritual. Our big festive meal was on New Year’s Eve, which left New Year’s Day as a quiet, family "recovery" day. (I appreciate some reverse the big meal day… or have one both days.) Anyway, for us, breakfast was well… late (especially for those of us who went partying after dinner), and limited to a piece of toast and a cup or two of coffee. Lunch was mid afternoon and usually made up of leftovers or an omelet, but the first dinner of the year was marked with a special dessert. The simple meal at the end of a week of overindulgences consisted of a light consommé, some greens, cheese, and the chocolate treat. There were no guests, plenty of time, and Mamie was ready for the flourless soufflé. She is a chocoholic and it would be unthinkable to start the year off without chocolate. So, what better way to end the first day of the New Year than with one of her favorite chocolate desserts as both a reward and I’m sure good-luck charm?

1 cup milk
1 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 1-quart soufflé mold by lightly buttering it, dusting the insides with sugar and tapping out the excess. Place mold in refrigerator.
2. Pour the milk, cocoa powder and sugar into a heavy saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over moderate heat while stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and cook while stirring until the mixture thickens (about 10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.
3. Separate the eggs and stir the egg yolks into the warm chocolate mixture. Stir in the butter.
4. Beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Add the salt and beat until stiff. Whisk half of the egg whites mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining whites gently with a spatula. Pour the mixture in the soufflé mold and smooth the top.
5. Bake in the lower-middle shelf of the oven until puff and brown for about 18 minutes which will give you a soft center. Serve at once with softly whipped cream.

Red Mullet with Spinach en Papillote
Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
8 fillets of red mullet, about 2 ounces each
1 lb. spinach, washed and dried in a salad spinner
4 teaspoons shallots, peeled and sliced
8 slices of lime
4 tablespoons of crème fraîche
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) into squares large enough to cover each fillet and leave a 2-inch border all around. Lightly brush the squares with olive oil. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Put the spinach in the center of each square and top it with a tablespoon of crème fraîche. Top with two fillets and add one teaspoon of shallots, two slices of lime. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Fold up the edges to form packets. Put the papillotes on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve at once by setting each papillote on a plate.
N.B. You can use sole or snapper instead of red mullet

Pappardelle with Spring Veggies
Serves 4

12 ounces pappardelle
1 lb. green asparagus
2 cups fresh peas, shelled
2 tablespoons of shallots, peeled and minced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 cup roughly chopped parsley
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Cut off end of asparagus and blanch in salted water until just tender (about 5 minutes). Blanch peas separately for about 1 minute.
2. In a heavy saucepan, gently sauté the shallots in olive oil until they begin to turn gold. Add peas and asparagus and cook for a few minutes.
3. Cook the pappardelle in boiling water, drain and pour into saucepan. Add pine nuts, parmesan and parsley and season to taste. Serve immediately.

Croque aux Poires
Serves 4

4 slices of brioche
2 ripe pears
2 tablespoons of sliced almonds
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon butter
1. Peel the pears and cut into small cubes. Melt butter in a saucepan and sauté the pear cubes for 2-3 minutes.
2. Arrange pear cubes on brioche slices. Cover with honey and almonds. Put under broiler for two minutes watching carefully. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche.
A yummy dessert also wonderful for a weekend breakfast or brunch.

Magical Leek Broth

Serves 1 for the weekend
Ingredients 2lbs leeks

1 - Clean the leeks and rinse well to get rid of sand and soil. Cut of the ends of the dark green parts, leaving all the white parts plus a suggestion of pale greens. (Reserve the extra greens for the soup stock)

2- Put the leeks in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour off the liquid and reserve. Place the leeks in a bowl.

The juice is to be drunk (reheated or at room temperature to taste) every 2 to 3 hours, 1 cup at a time.

For meals, or whenever hungry, have some of the leeks themselves, 1/2 Cup at a time. Drizzle with a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Season sparingly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if you wish.

This will be your nourishment for both days, until Sunday dinner, when you can have a small piece of meat or fish (4 to 6 ounces - don't loose that scale yet!), with 2 vegetables, steamed with a bit of butter or olive oil, and a piece of fruit.

Pitty those who don't love the sweet taste and delicious texture of leeks. Eventually, you probably will.  If not, follow the example of my cousin in Aix-enProvence; after the birth of her two sons, she needed to shed a few pounds but didn't love leeks. A Neighbor suggested hiding the leeks among other flavorful and healthful ingredients. This Provencial version is known as Soupe Mimosa (Mimosa Soup).

Mimosa Soup
Serves 1 for the Weekend

1 head of lettuce
1/2 lb carrots
1/2 lb celeriac
1/2 lb turnips
1lb leeks
1/2 lb cauliflower
1/2 C chopped parsley
2 hard boiled eggs chopped

1 - Clean and chop all vegetables in rough pieces and put them in a pot, except for the cauliflower and parsley. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and cook for another 15 minutes.

2- Pass all the cooked vegetables through a food mill.

3- Serve the soup in a bowl and add parsley and pieces of chopped hard-boiled eggs.

Eat 1 Cup (at room temperature or reheated) every 3 hours or so all day Saturday and Sunday until Sunday dinner when you can have a small piece (4 to 6 ounces) of fish or meat, 2 steamed vegetables with a dash of butter or olive oil, and 1 piece of fruit. Somewhat less liquidy and magical than the leek soup, this soup is nevertheless an effective and tasty alternative.

Both versions are so good, and such an adventure for most palates, that you will have a hard time seeing them as prison rations. Especially if these tastes are new to you, jot your impressions of flavor and fragrance on the next clean page of the notebook in when you have recorded your last three weeks. In time, this exercise will intensify your pleasures, and you may want to keep a regular diary of your gastronomic experiences, including some wine notes (just as serious oenophiles do).

Apple Tart Without Dough
Serves 4

The following recipe for an apple tart without a crust is less sweet - lower in calories - but more nutritional than what one finds in pastry shops, delis, or supermarkets.  Homemade versus prepared food: a universe of difference. Read labels and start avoiding foods whose ingredients sound like chemical weapons.

4 medium size Golden Delicious apples
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cabbage leaves
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dots of butter

1- Peal and core the apples, cut into quarters, slice each quarter into thirds and sprinkle with lemon juice. Place the apples on the cabbage leaves, shaping the slices like those on a small tart.

2- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle almost all of it on the apple slices (leaving enough to cover the dots of butter). Add small dots of butter and cover with the remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

You don't need to eat the cabbage leaves, though you can; they are for presentation and don't affect the tart. And yes, after your three months, you can go back to having a slice of the real thing with a pate brisee crust.

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