Right Mesdames et Messieurs, this weeks post has got a French theme. Well, almost.
The night before last I made a lovely Poulet Suissesse, or Swiss Chicken from Diana Henry’s great recipe book Roast Figs, Sugar Snow. It’s a book dedicated to the food and time-honoured traditions of countries in the colder parts of the world. Sweden, Austria, Russia, Sweden, and then dipping into northern Italy and France. You’ll probably see a review of this book appear in my “book reviews” section by the way; and it’s a really good read. Something which I really appreciate in recipe books. Sometimes I just like to get into bed fifteen minutes early and pore over all my cook books, and I’ve got heaps of them! Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Julia Child and Delia Smith are all firm favourites, oh, and Diana Henry of course. And those full page colour photographs are a gastronomic delight. Anyway, about this recipe.
I think it comes from somewhere around the Swiss and French alps but it is also enjoyed throughout Europe, France especially. Just by looking at the ingredients in the sauce you can tell this recipe hasn’t strayed too far from a French kitchen. It’s also characteristically rich, creamy and heavenly, an especially suitable recipe for chilly nights where electric blankets and sleeping bags on the couch are mandatory, and it feels very rewarding after especially lengthy bouts of exercise.
La Salade Tunissienne Grillée is also influenced by the French, but mainly consists of Tunisian and Northern African flavours. Ground caraway and coriander seed, blackened capsicums, juicy plump tomatoes. You get the drift. A very nice aside to the chicken, enjoyable hot, warm or cool. It would also pair well with other rich meat dishes and couscous at a Tunisian themed lunch or feast (I have yet to try a nice couscous dish).
¡Enjoy et bon apetit!
Serves 6 people, or 4 greedy ones
6 chicken thighs with bone and skin
2 tbsp of olive or vegetable oil
275ml of white wine, any variety of grape will do (I prefer sav. blanc)
salt + pepper
For the sauce
50g of butter
50g of flour
75ml of cream or créme fraîche
1 1/2 tsp of dijon mustard
Freshly grated, or recently opened packet of ground nutmeg to taste
40g parmesan cheese, grated
125g of gruyère cheese or beaufort cheese, grated0
1. Heat the butter and oil together in a large frying pan with lid, or your widest pot. Pref. Oven-proof. Quickly brown the chicken pieces all over. You want to get a good colour, not to cook the chicken through. Drain off the excess fat from the pan/pot/cooking vessel and pour in the white wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge all the crusty cooking juices. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the wine to just under the boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pan and cook the chicken over a gentle simmer for about fifteen minutes.
2. Pre-heat your oven to 180° Celsius /350° Fahrenheit/ gas mark 4. Remove the chicken and set aside in a large roasting dish. Pour the juices from the pan into a jug. Now make a roux by melting the butter in the pan you used earlier and add in the flour. Stir over a medium heat until the butter and flour come together and turn a pale biscuit colour. Remove from the heat. Measure the reserved chicken juices and add enough milk to bring it up to 550ml. Start slowly adding this to the roux, stirring well after each addition, and when fully brought together put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time until the sauce thickens. Add the cream or créme fraîche and simmer for 5 mins to cook out the flour, then put in the mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper as well as the two cheeses. Cook for a few mins more until the cheese is nicely melted, but make sure not to cook. Over-melted cheese can become horribly oily. Check the sauce for seasoning.
3. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the roasting dish , sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 20 mins. Flash under the grill for a further 5 mins or so, or until the top is bubbling and golden brown. Serve.
Salade Tunissienne Grillée (Mechouia)
Serves 4 well
4 large plum tomatoes
2 capsicums of any colour
1 or 2 poblano chillies or other hot chillies on hand
1 brown or red onion, or half and half if you’d like
1 large garlic clove, unpeeled and crushed
1/4 tsp of ground caraway seeds, you may need to buy caraway seeds and grind them yourself in a pestle and mortar, or a good coffee grinder used only for spices
1 tsp of sea salt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 – 3 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
12 black and/or green olives, halved, or 12 small black ones
1/2 tbsp of capers
Grill the tomatoes, the capsicums, chillies, onion and garlic straight under the grill of your oven, or near a gas flame, or feel free to build a large open fire in the garden and roast them over it traditionally until blackened and charred, remembering to turn often. Remove as they are done. Put the capsicums and chillies into a paper bag straight after removing from the oven and allow to steam for about 10 mins (This loosens the capsicums/chillies skins. A common alternative, peeling under running cold water dilutes their flavour). Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes and chop into rough, uneven pieces. Put into desired salad bowl. Peel the peppers, stem and deseed them. Cut the capsicums into 1/2 in pieces and finely chop the chillies, then add both to the tomatoes in the bowl. Peel and squish the garlic clove and combine with the caraway, coriander and salt. Mix well with all the veg and stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Garnish with olives and serve with the Poulet Suissesse.