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 :)

Happy new blog!

The year has just started and so has this new blog of mine.
What an amazing coincidence, uh?

Well, actually at The roof kitchen I have been getting ready since a couple of months. Sort of flexing my muscles - or rather, sharpening my knives. Scrubbing my copper pots. You name it. I did not know I wanted it to start with the new year. I only knew I wanted a good excuse for a new blog on cooking, because the new house I had just moved in has the most adorable (and tiny) kitchen under the eaves that I could imagine. Cooking so close to the sky is definitely special and I longed to have a blog that stated it from the title on.

So, here comes The roof kitchen.

With the new year.

Because on Dec. 31 I got an exciting email that I felt was meant to usher me into 2011 in the best possible way.
That email not only told me I had been accepted among Leite’s Culinaria recipe testers (yay!): it also welcomed me in a wonderful community of people passionate about everything food and happy to share their experience and skills.
So, I thought it about time. Time to have a blog in English (I already have one in Italian). Being part of the nice group from David Leite’s site was a very powerful last straw. You see I usually leave lots of comments on the many English-speaking sites I follow – and I have always wondered, what if some other reader from those sites comes all the way back to my blog to find more about me, only to find an endless blurb written in Italian? I mean, if I am to share, and return a little of the lots of things I discover and learn every day, I may as well express myself in a language my fellows around the world can understand. 

One last word: up until now, I've hardly ever written in English anything longer and more formal than an email. So please be very patient with me and my mistakes - and feel free to point them out in the comments.

So, welcome to The roof kitchen. And to 2011 :)