Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Escoffier, Chicken , and a Crockpot

Cookbooks are harder to read than novels or mysteries. They force me to put them down as soon as I stumble onto an interesting recipe or an idea of a recipe.

"I can do that!", I say to myself. "I have walnuts. I have horseradish". And when Auguste Escoffier, one of France's greatest chefs, says "I have never forgotten the sauce of horseradish and walnuts" he was served in Provincial France on a shooting weekend at a friend's grandiose country home, perhaps I should try to reproduce it in the Tee-Tiny Kitchen.

I read Escoffier's account of that weekend in Elizabeth David's "French Provincial Cooking" this afternoon as I was drinking coffee and procrastinating and avoiding housework. Escoffier and the shooters came home with hares and rabbits and "a quantity of small birds" and partridges and something called a capercailzies. I shall have to look that last one up on Wikipedia. I assume since they shot it, it was not some species of snail.

Escoffier and his friends spent the rest of the weekend eating game, for this was the Belle Epoque, and there were fleets of cooks below stairs to pluck the feathers.

Elizabeth David gives an outline of the recipe for the sauce. It calls for dunking the walnuts in hot water and then skinning them. This did not sound like something I wanted to do, so I ignored this step. I wasn't using French walnuts anyway. I was using walnuts from a nut farm in Wrens, Georgia. And I wasn't planning to sauce a char or any other fish. I was going to see if the sauce went with drumsticks.

I put a handful of walnuts and several tablespoons of Boar's Head Horseradish sauce in my mini-processor and spun away. Now I had a little ball of what looked like speckled spackle. I added a little more sauce, then started to whisk in heavy cream. The mixture now was paste. More cream and a just shy of a cup of chicken bouillon, and I had a sauce. Enough to cook 3 drumsticks in in my modest crock pot. I added 2 diced up carrots, a couple shakes of Herbs de Provence and two pats of butter.

Since raw chicken was in the pot there was no more tasting for an hour or so. Now that it is bubbling I chanced it, and I am pleased. And I did not even notice the walnut skins. I will have to wait until after dinner to give a full report-

* A trip to Wikipedia tells me the capercailzie is a wood grouse found across Europe. There are not many left for anyone to hunt.

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