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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Broth-Braised Potatoes - French Fridays with Dorie

A recipe like this is why many people think that French cuisine is the greatest ever. Potatoes - the simplest, most earthy vegetable - cooked simply with a few basic flavor enhancers thrown in (literally) turn into a glorious dish that you can't stop thinking about. Why do we make boiled potatoes when, with just a little more effort, you can end up with something like this?

You're always likely to have a few cloves of garlic on hand. Mine weren't even in pristine shape, but they were good enough to flavor the broth.

And I had a lemon that was buried in the fruit drawer. A little sad-looking, but perfectly fine for giving up a wide swath of peel.

I happened to have both fresh thyme and fresh rosemary in my crisper. I bought them both for recipes I made weeks ago. Again, they were both somewhat tired-looking, but not too tired to be tossed in simmering water.

Those few simple things were enough to turn boiled potatoes into something good enough to be the star of the show.

When the potatoes were fork-tender, I took the lid off, turned up the heat, and let most of the liquid boil away. They turned into what looked like a real braise: lighly coated in olive oil, with the potatoes on the bottom of the pan picking up a little crust, and with just a tiny bit of liquid for flavor. I'm glad I have enough left to use Dorie's suggestion of turning leftovers into hash browns. That'll come up later in the week, or maybe for Sunday breakfast. I really want to eat them again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

M. Jacques' Armagnac (or Calvados) Chicken - French Fridays with Dorie

I don't know why I always confuse Armagnac with Calvados. Not that the opportunity to confuse them arises all that often, but when it does, I'm confused. According to Wikipedia, Armagnac is a "distinctive kind of brandy or eau de vie produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France. It is distilled from wine usually made from a blend of Armagnac grapes." Calvados, on the other hand, is "an apple brandy from the French région of Basse-Normandie or Lower Normandy." So obviously no sane person could confuse them. But, although M. Jacques might be shocked to hear it, Calvados makes an excellent (fake) Armagnac chicken.

Other than using the wrong spirit, I think I did everything else according to recipe: the potatoes, carrots, and onions,

the 3 1/2 pound organic chicken (mine was 3.4 pounds, but I'm not giving myself a demerit for that),

and the enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. (I got this to bake no-knead bread back in the heyday of NKB's popularity, and have loved it ever since).

This roast chicken is made with an amazingly easy technique. The vegetables are tossed in heated olive oil for a few minutes, the bird is plunked down in the middle of the pan, and the whole thing goes in the oven for an hour. An untended, carefree hour during which the enormously appetizing smells wafting from the kitchen make you wish the houro would go by more quickly.

Dorie says the chicken will be "beautifully browned." I wouldn't go that far, but maybe it would have been browner if I hadn't been so eager to eat it. I'll be curious to see how brown everyone else's chicken got.

It's a homey dish for sure. It's perfect for a Sunday night family dinner, but maybe a touch too rustic for a dinner party. However, if you did opt to serve it to your snooty boss, for example, the snootiness would last only until the first bite of aromatic, moist chicken and tender brothy vegetables. And even the snootiest of bosses wouldn't care that you don't know your Armagnac from your Calvados.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pete's Thai Green Curry Chicken - Gutsy Cooks Club

I'm not sure who Pete is, but he makes a mean Thai green curry chicken. It was exactly what I was looking for--simple, flavorful, and good for you. (Thanks, Monica). But whatever you do, do not, I repeat DO NOT use four tablespoons of green curry. At least, not if your chosen brand is Thai Kitchen.

I never noticed how uniform my collection of Asian condiments was until this group picture. Apparently it's my supermarket's brand of choice, and thus mine. I knew from using this brand before that four tablespoons would take my head off, so I used about four teaspoons, or slightly more than one tablespoon, and it was still very hot. As you see, I bought "lite" coconut milk. I don't usually do this. First, there's usually not that much of a difference in calories. ("Light" olive oil is light only in color, but I'm sure many people are deceived into buying it because they think it's light in calories). Also, I'm opposed in principle to the word "lite." And "light" (or "lite") usually gives up more in flavor than it gives up in fat. But there was a substantial caloric difference between the regular and lite coconut milk, so I swallowed my principles. It's not as good, but since the dish was so heavily flavored anyway, I decided it would do.

After adding the coconut milk to the sauteed chicken breast strips and green curry sauce, it's just a matter of slicing and adding various vegetables.

I chose onions, a red pepper, and pea pods, maybe because I wasn't quite ready to give up the red-and-green holiday colors. Mushrooms and zucchini would also be good.

And then, at the last minute, lots of basil. The recipe specifies Thai basil, but you can use anything that's easy to get, which will probably not be Thai holy basil. Even though my basil wasn't holy, I felt purified after eating this spicily delicious Asian stir-fry.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bubble-Top Brioches (French Fridays with Dorie)

I've made brioche before, both in loaves and in the traditional brioche a tete (the tete in my loaf tilted alarmingly), but it had never occurred to me to turn them into what my mother called cloverleaf rolls and what Dorie calls bubble-top rolls. Here is the thing about brioche:

Loaded with butter and eggs, it is lushly different than its baguette sibling, which contains only the modest four ingredients of flour, water, salt, and yeast.

It starts with a dough that Dorie describes as "shaggy" and "ugly."

But after you add 12 tablespoons of butter, it loses its shagginess and becomes rich and smooth-looking. I have to admit that I forgot to add the required overnight refrigeration into my schedule. I also have to admit that this lack didn't seem to do the bread much harm. I'm sure it would have been even better with a cold rest, but since it turned into something a lot better than I could buy at my grocery store, I can't be too remorseful.

Easy to shape into three little balls and tuck them into muffin cups.

I decided to try to make a few of them into mini brioche a tetes. It didn't work much better than the last time I tried that.

At least the heads didn't completely fall off the little brioche body.

These were so buttery, tender and delicious. You can gild the lily and serve them with more butter, or emphasize their sweetness with a smear of jam, or eat them as is. Even Mom's cloverleaf rolls weren't this good.