Sunday, August 28, 2011

Poulet Poule a l'Estragon

Okay, so I have fresh tarragon in the garden and I thought it would be a good opportunity to make Poulet Poule a l'Estragon from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".  I loved Julie and Julia and got caught up in the whole Julia Child craze - got the movie, got the cookbook, etc.  Well the cookbook has been gathering dust for about a year because trying one of those recipes seemed daunting.  I'm sorry Julia but cooking doesn't have to be so damn hard!  The recipes are like mini-encyclopedias with a plethora of steps, ingredients and tools required to successfully complete them. It's too much! Just reading one makes me feel like Charlie Brown the second he kicks the ball and connects with...air...Anyway here goes.

(Notice - the vegetable is cherry tomatoes out of the garden.  I was just too tired after making cookies and then jumping through Julia's hoops to do the kale I was planning)

First you take a 3 lb chicken and you wash and dry it.  Season the inside with salt and pepper and 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh tarragon and 2 Tbsp of butter (really Julia - butter INSIDE a chicken - sorry no can do) and then you truss the bird with kitchen twine.  Now you melt 2 Tbsp of butter and 1 Tbsp of oil in a heavy iron casserole.  (I used 1.5 Tbsp butter and 1.5 Tbsp of olive oil) and brown the chicken on all sides.  Julia goes on and on about regulating the heat so the butter is very hot but not burning, about  browning the chicken on all sides, using 2 wooden spoons to move and manipulate the chicken without breaking the skin, adding more butter as needed.  Well, I tried Julia - really I did but as you can see, I wasn't very successful...

Oh well, when I had done all the browning I could tolerate, I removed it to a platter and added 3 slices of onion and one carrot sliced and a couple of sprigs of tarragon.  Now Julia says to drain the butter from your pan and add fresh butter.  I never thought I hear myself say this but - it's too damn much butter! Every time you turn around in one of these recipes she has you adding more and more butter. No, no, no.  Just cook the veg in the existing butter until they are softened but not browned.  Then add the chicken on top, season with salt and pepper and put in a 325 degree oven for about an hour.

Now Julia has a couple of paragraphs of how the chicken is supposed to sound while it's in the oven.  She's a little verbose for me - let me just say, forget all the persnickety directions.  Put the lid on and bung it in the oven for an hour.  Check it and baste it a couple of times during the hour. At the end of the hour, take the lid off and turn the heat up to 375 for the last 20 minutes - baste again.

Now take it out and put it on the cutting board to rest while you make the brown tarragon sauce.  Julia suggests making the sauce and then straining it into the gravy boat.  You can just use a slotted spoon to take the veg and herbs out.  Turn up the heat under the casserole dish, add 1 to 1.5 cups of chicken stock.  Bring it to a boil and add a cornstarch mixture (1 Tbsp of cornstarch and 2 Tbsp of sherry or port).  Boil to thicken and add a Tbsp of chopped fresh tarragon (omit the tablespoon of butter she suggests).  I'm sure the chicken would have looked nice decorated with crossed blanched tarragon leaves but needless to say, I didn't go to all that trouble.  I just sliced it and put it on the plate with potatoes and tomatoes.  I must say that I was a little ticked off by the time I got this dinner on the table and was not expecting much.  Really I was sure that my roast lemon chicken must taste as good with half the work but....I have to admit it was delicious.  I mean really, really good - tender chicken, incredibly flavourful sauce.  Really so good that my mother who is in her 80s and always telling me she has no appetite any more, went back for seconds because she needed some more of that sauce.  I guess there is a reason Julia is so famous.  Your recipe was a pain but boy did it taste good!

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