Jan 9, 2011

On Fricassées and cutting corners

In Italy we have a saying that goes, more or less, “What you do on new year’s day, you’ll be doing all year long”. Well, one of the things I did on Jan 1 was watching Julie&Julia for the first time. I’m not sure what it means, according to that saying, but I was left with a sudden urgency to cook some Julia Child’s dishes. I mean, I read the book more than three years ago and had never been curious about what those recipes actually tasted like. Ah, but movies are powerful, aren’t they. So here I am, the night after my first Fricassée de poulet à l’ancienne.

If you google a bit, there are lots of blog posts about this recipe and lots of comments too, most of them about how long it takes to make it (well, folks, it’s Julia Child, not Martha’s Everyday Food…). Actually you are asked to make two different vegetable garnitures (small onions and mushrooms) while the main part of the dish is cooking. It was already past 8 pm here when I decided on this so I thought it better to come up with some Clever Shortcuts.
Ha! Stewing mushrooms? First of all, I don’t have any and, second, I don’t even like them. I do have some dried porcini mushrooms, I will throw them in along with the stock, they are much more flavourful than fresh portobello’s, it will be even better (gosh why didn’t Julia herself think of it?). And what about the glazed onions? Hmm, let’s see, they should cook in 30-35 mins, just like the chicken. So I will simply add them to the fricasseeing chicken, they will simmer together into that heavenly sauce and make some good conversation too.

One hour and 45 minutes later I sat down for my first date with Julia.
The sauce was heavenly indeed. Adding the eggs and the lemon juice took everything on another level and it was pretty easy too. I had fished out all the chicken pieces, the onions and the mushroom bits before whizzing it smooth with my immersion blender, then added the egg mixture as Julia suggests. The chicken was very nice, plump and tender. But the onions tasted totally out of place, as if I had tipped them in by mistake, and the mushrooms like they did not belong there as well.  
So much for cutting corners (I know, Julia, I know).

I will try this again without the mushrooms and serving the glazed onions apart. Simmering them with the chicken left them totally bland, while if I had braised them they would have developed a stronger flavour and maybe chimed in better with the rest of the dish. Maybe. But I am also ready to leave out the onions altogether. And next time I will use skinless chicken, so that the goodness of the sauce gets right into the meat.
Let’s say that this dish is so good I am only looking for an excuse to make it again. 

Oh, and Julia, tomorrow it’s Boeuf Bourguignon
(No shortcuts. I promise)

The leftovers were such a nice surprise! After a good night's rest and a slow re-heating, the flavours mellowed beautifully and the veggies did not seem so estranged anymore. So maybe I got forgiven for those corners I cut :)


  1. Ha... loved your shortcuts and how you realized what works and does not. Isn't it amazing how most recipes (well apart from fish in general) taste so very much better next day?

  2. yes Sofia, I think this works for most of "winter" recipes, except for pasta and risotti. And it's such a blessing for us busy cooks - us servantless worldwide cooks ;)

  3. Sounds delicious! Though Julia's recipes are a little time consuming, they are soo good--I've only made two or three and I obviously need to make more. I wish I could remember the name of the fish I made from her book, because the sauce was TO DIE FOR (thought the most laborious thing ever! =).

  4. Jenna, thanks for visiting! Yes, Julia's recipes are a bit long to make but absolutely rewarding. I did make the Boeuf Bourguignon and it was one of the best stews I had ever tasted.
    (btw I saw a very intriguing mushroom soup on your blog... can you share the recipe? ;)

  5. Marcella! You are one dedicated chica for taking on Julia. :) It was the movie Julie and Julia that brought me back to wanting to learn the classic techniques. And it's one of the reasons I love Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, because it's very Julia-esque, but doesn't expect you to be in the kitchen all day long.

    Oh, and by the way, the "Italian food" I said in my blog that I was bored of ... is not Italian food at all. Spaghetti topped with bland tomato sauce is what we called Italian food when I was growing up. So, you can see where it all went wrong for me. :)