Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving Chicken

This recipe, from the incomparable"The Old World Kitchen-The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking", by Elisabeth Luard, is a classic of French country cooking. It is simple. Simple enough for any novice. Indeed if some young person wanted to invite friends for dinner but found herself fearful of her skills, she would find this foolproof. Luard's recipe calls for a whole chicken cut up and cooked for an hour at 350 degrees in a tightly covered casserole or Dutch oven. The chicken keeps company for that hour with some sprigs of rosemary, a few shakes of Herbes de Provence, a wine glass of olive oil, and twenty cloves of unpeeled garlic.

I did not use a whole chicken. I used the drumsticks of three chickens, a half cup of olive oil, 10 garlic cloves, and the herbs already described, and then added salt to taste. Then I drizzled a little more oil over the chicken. And in an hour, it was done. I fished the chicken out with a slotted spoon, then looked down into a golden pool of olive oil suffused with herbs and garlic and chicken fat.

I needed a side, so out came the chef's knife and potato peeler and into the Dutch oven went three Yukon gold potatoes, sliced. An hour later they were done. Had I had a bigger Dutch oven, I could have added the potatoes in the beginning for a one pot meal. Nor would carrots have been a mistake, had I decided to add them.

One fire. One pot. One meal. That is how the peasantry ate. No eight burner twenty thousand dollar stoves, no Ruffoni or All-Clad cookware.

Luard collected classic recipes and tramped around in places such as the Carpathian Mountains talking to shepherds' wives about their chicken in sour cream recipes. The book's geography spans Scandinavia all the way to the Balkan states once threatened by the Ottoman Empire. It is history, culture, ethnography. In short-it is literature, which 99.9 percent of cookery books are not.

And as for Garlic Chicken, kings could not eat better.

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