Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Embracing Simplicity - M. Jacques Armagnac Chicken

I've been spending a lot of time lately in reflection about the way I process things, realizing that in most ways life is meant to be simple and that if we aren't being faced with the big stuff like losing a loved one, or getting sick, it really just is small stuff.

I know its been said before, but this is a message that bears repeating because as we get busy, and stressed, we tend to blow the inconsequential things in our lives out of proportion; attaching more importance to people or circumstances that don't deserve our energy or attention.

It's really about attitude and remembering that we each have the power to control the way we feel and react to things in every moment and that if something or somebody is taking more of our energy than we wish, we can disengage and choose to remain on the outskirts of a conflict or crisis.

I reminded myself of that today.

Not that I'm embroiled in intrigue or crisis at the moment, but my all too human mind can run amok if given half the chance, turning molehills into mountains, and I am hard at work trying to change this.

To remember that peace is a two way street and if I embrace an attitude of peacefulness and calm in even the most stressful situations, peace will be my experience.

I have the power to choose how I interact and react and therefore also have the power to determine my own experiences.

And one of the ways I wish to experience life is by continuing to adopt a Mediterranean (ie French, Italian, Greek, Spanish) way of living that embraces beauty in my surroundings...

















Simplicity in fashion






















(I LOVE this look on Janet Jackson and totally intend to copy it.)

And relaxed food made with beautiful ingredients...

Like yesterday evening's dinner of M. Jacques’s Armagnac Chicken from Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table

















I have begun a love affair with Dorie Greenspan, her cooking, and the lovely relaxed way she describes French food and eating that I believe will last a lifetime.

And because I tend to share my every thought and feeling here on my blog, I would be remiss if I didn't share Dorie with you.

From “Around My French Table,” by Dorie Greenspan.

"This recipe, une petite merveille (a little marvel), as the French would say, was given to me years ago by Jacques Drouot, the maître d’hôtel at the famous Le Dôme brasserie in Paris and an inspired home cook. I’ve been making it regularly ever since. It’s one of those remarkable dishes that is comforting, yet more sophisticated than you’d expect (or really have any right to demand, given the basic ingredients and even more basic cooking method).

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 8 small thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and thickly sliced on the diagonal
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 chicken, about 3½ pounds, preferably organic, trussed (or wings turned under and feet tied together with kitchen string), at room temperature
  • ½ cup Armagnac (Cognac or other brandy) ** I used Grand Marnier because it was all I had and it was amazing.
  • 1 cup water.

Directions
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. You’ll need a heavy casserole with a tight-fitting cover, one large enough to hold the chicken snugly but still leave room for the vegetables. (I use an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Put the casserole over medium heat and pour in the oil. When it’s warm, toss in the vegetables and turn them around in the oil for a minute or two until they glisten; season with salt and white pepper. Stir in the herbs and push everything toward the sides of the pot to make way for the chicken. Rub the chicken all over with salt and white pepper, nestle it in the pot, and pour the Armagnac around it. Leave the pot on the heat for a minute to warm the Armagnac, then cover it tightly — if your lid is shaky, cover the pot with a piece of aluminum foil and then put the cover in place.
  3. Slide the casserole into the oven and let the chicken roast undisturbed for 60 minutes.
  4. Transfer the pot to the stove, and carefully remove the lid and the foil, if you used it — make sure to open the lid away from you, because there will be a lot of steam. After admiring the beautifully browned chicken, very carefully transfer it to a warm platter or, better yet, a bowl; cover loosely with a foil tent.
  5. Using a spoon, skim off the fat that will have risen to the top of the cooking liquid and discard it; pick out the bay leaf and discard it too. Turn the heat to medium, stir the vegetables gently to dislodge any that might have stuck to the bottom of the pot, and add the water, stirring to blend it with the pan juices. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens ever so slightly, then taste for salt and pepper.
  6. Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetables and sauce.

Serving

You can bring the chicken to the table whole, surrounded by the vegetables, and carve it in public, or you can do what I do, which is to cut the chicken into quarters in the kitchen, then separate the wings from the breasts and the thighs from the legs. I arrange the pieces in a large shallow serving bowl, spoon the vegetables into the center, moisten everything with a little of the sauce and then pour the remainder of the elixir into a sauce boat to pass at the table.

Storing

I can’t imagine that you’ll have anything left over, but if you do, you can reheat the chicken and vegetables — make sure there’s some sauce, so nothing dries out — covered in a microwave oven.

Bonne idée

Armagnac and prunes are a classic combination in France. If you’d like, you can toss 8 to 12 prunes, pitted or not, into the pot along with the herbs. If your prunes are pitted and soft, they might pretty much melt during the cooking, but they’ll make a sweet, lovely addition to the mix.

Lyndsay's Bonne idée

Because I am currently cooking for two, there were lots of leftovers for this incredibly moist, flavourful, and succulent meal. So tonight I tossed everything together with a little melted butter in a hot skillet, almost making a crust on the bottom of the potatoes, and finishing by adding the leftover sauce, fresh ground pepper, and parsley.

The result was rustic, simple, and absolutely divine...

















***

Dorie's recipe can be found on pages 204 and 205 of Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, "Around My French Table"

This blog is linked to Cookbook Sundays at Brenda's Canadian Kitchen.

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6 comments:

  1. Simple is often best, your dinner looks great and I love the added info at the end. Have a great day.

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  2. This is my kind of food too! I will try this! Thanks so much!!!! XO, Pinky

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  3. Oh, a Dorie recipe! Don't you just LOVE that book?! I can't wait to see what else you fix. I've only tried the mushroom soup thus far, but it is delicious.

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  4. LYNDS...

    LOOKS TO DIE 4, HUN, BUT I CAN'T THINK OF ONE THINK U MAKE THAT ISN'T.

    I LOVE SEEING NEW RECIPES 4 CHICKEN!

    I'VE FOUND IT ALL TOO EASY TO GET BURNED OUT ON EVEN THE BEST OF THE OLD TRIED AND TRUE FAMILIAR FAVORITES, AND WITH PORK, AS WELL.

    TWO THUMBS UP ON THIS ONE LYNDS.

    U AND DORIE MAKE A WONDERFUL COUPLE!

    TOWANDA!

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  5. What a beautiful meal! I made a Dorie cake yesterday for my daughter's birthday. Her recipes never fail to impress. Thank you so much for sharing with Cookbook Sundays.

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  6. Lyndsay, this looks utterly simple and delicious. I soooo want a Dorie book - every time I see someone produce one of her dishes they look fantastic.
    Sue :-)

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