Writing a regular food column for France magazine En Route is more than work — it’s a real learning experience. For each column I choose a typical French food item, explore its (cultural) history and then write a summary of what I learned. The whole process takes at least a week and is not the easiest of tasks, however enjoyable. Not only because there is usually a sea of information (in France, almost every food item is a BIG deal, often protected by expert organizations and boasting a long and strong history), but also because I’m not writing an article but a column, which means less words and a very different tone.
So far I’ve written about the history of Dijon mustard (not all Dijon mustards are created equal, or even from Dijon for that matter!), the great gourmand Brillat-Savarin (and the cheese named after him), pruneaux d’Agen (they ain’t your grandma’s prunes!) and quiche (in the next issue).
This last column — on Bresse chicken, the best chicken on the planet, the Rolls Royce of chooks — was no exception as far as intensive research goes. I am very grateful to Marie-Paul Meunier from the CIVB (Comité Interprofessionnel de la Volaille de Bresse) who answered my questions and provided me with lots of useful information. I am sure you will enjoy reading this column as much as I enjoyed writing it. Oh, and lucky me. In just a few weeks I will personally be in Bresse chicken paradise. You can probably guess what I will be eating that first Sunday. Thank you, Henri IV.
All that chicken talk has had me craving and cooking chicken almost the entire week. One of the dishes we enjoyed most was this chicken in wine/cream sauce served over fresh tagliatelle. I didn’t use the mother of all chickens, but I did use beautifully tender organic thighs, plus a gorgeous Sauvignon Blanc from Duras, a hint of thyme and a few spoonfuls of really good crème fraîche. I served it with a fresh green salad, good music, great conversation and love. One more thing, during this research I learned that browning chicken in anything but good, pure butter is a horrible crime. Don’t be guilty of using a little olive oil, as I did in the past. Trust me, it really makes a difference. Bon-weekend & bon appétit!
Chicken Thighs in Cream Sauce
- large knob of pure butter
- 800g chicken thigh fillets
- fleur de sel and freshly-cracked pepper
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 300 ml dry white wine
- a few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
- 3 tbsps crème fraîche
- fresh tagliatelle, or mashed potatoes or rice, to serve
- chopped parsley
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed casserole and brown the chicken on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the shallots, wine and the thyme, cover and cook for 25 minutes. Remove the lid from the pan, stir in the crème fraîche, cover and leave to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with fresh tagliatelle, a little more cracked pepper and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.