Chicken Savoyarde

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This dish of Chicken Savoyarde is an adaptation of a 200 year old recipe. Sometimes, things get lost in the translation when you go from French to English, but one thing for sure, this recipe is a simple peasant dish that has been elevated to most elegant and sophisticated dinning experience.

Enjoy!  

Jump to the Recipe

The Alps are emblematic, mountains as metaphor. They’re imposing, romantic, operatic—inspiring us to poetry and to heroic deeds , whether fearlessly scaling their faces or just schussing in mild terror down the intermediate ski run. They are also famous for their food, promising to nourish us with honest, robust fare once we’ve conquered the slopes in one direction or the other (or even just thought about doing so). This is especially true, not surprisingly, on the French side of the Alps.

A hugely varied terrain, much of the Savoie is covered by high-altitude mountain plateaux,  steep gradients, deep river valleys, farmland and lakes, plus of course huge swathes of the land are covered in snow for half the year, so the people who historically lived and travelled here were very hardy folk.

They are also famous for their food, promising to nourish us with honest, robust fare once we’ve conquered the slopes in one direction or the other (or even just thought about doing so). This is especially true, not surprisingly, on the French side of the Alps.

The region of Savoie, divided into the departements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, lies at the heart of the French Alps—the remnants of a kingdom that ruled much of this part of Europe for eight centuries, until the mid-1800s—and it is here that French mountain cooking thrives most vigorously. The raw materials are rich and varied—cheese(Beaufort, Tome and of course Reblochon) and other dairy products; apples, pears, plums, and cherries; mountain berries and wild mushrooms; wild game; fresh fish from local lakes—not just trout but perch, pike, and the sublime omble-chevalier. Fondue Savoyarde is the region’s most famous dish, but hearty soups and stews (among them the famous Potee), civets of game, potato dishes, and glorious fruit tarts all appear on the Savoyard table as well.

If you are a fan of winter sports, take note that The Savoie is home to many of France’s most fashionable ski resorts—Chamonix, Courchevel, and Val d’Isere among them—and these, of course, imply elaborate resort hotels: mountain palaces with serious dining rooms serving dishes that may or may not owe anything to their surroundings. But basic country cooking has survived as well in the Savoie, both in homes and in restaurants, and there are even signs today that the ski culture is beginning a romance with the region’s traditional gastronomy.

For nearly 200 years, in the autumn, the men of the village descended to larger towns to find work for the winter. The women and children stayed behind, often living with the livestock to keep warm. In spring, the men returned, rushing back to plant their crops and lead their animals into summer pastures. Summer was the time to harvest wild herbs to dry for the winter menu. Before the men left the village again, pigs were slaughtered, and hams and sausages were made. In the communal oven, loaves of rye bread were baked, to be stored for months on wicker racks. (Before serving, they were softened in a damp towel. Otherwise, they’d have been rock-hard.) With chestnuts and polenta, these were the staples of the winter diet.

During the long months of winter, the people of Chamonix also depended on a diet of potatoes, cheese, onions, and pork products. Today, these same ingredients are still basic to the local cuisine. One of the most popular offerings is an ancient specialty called reblochonnade (also known as tartiflette), a sturdy cousin of the classic gratin savoyard. The dish is made of thinly sliced potatoes sauteed with bacon and onions, moistened with cream, then baked in the oven. Finally, generous slices of creamy reblochon (a cow’s-milk cheese made in the Haute-Savoie) are melted on top. The dish feels hearty enough to insulate against the most bracing winter winds, all the way till spring. Local children still made their way to school through the snow in hobnailed wood-soled shoes. For lunch, they carried simple meals of potato fritters and cafe au lait, to be reheated over the school’s wood stove.

That was life—and food—here before skiing. Things began to change in 1878, when a Savoyard named Henri Duhamel bought some narrow wooden planks from Scandinavia at the Paris Exposition and introduced them to the Alps. “The use of skis permits a skilled Alpine peasant to go easily from one point to another,” explained an article in La Croix de Savoie in 1908.

By the 1930s, Val d’Isere had started to become a center for winter sports enthusiasts. One of the first hotels in town to earn a reputation beyond the Alps was Hotel Le Solaise, opened in December 1938 by Noel and Palmyre Machet. :The grocer in Tignes delivered provisions for the whole winter all at once,” Palmyre remembered. “We served Savoie ham, trout, and game. In those days, you had to have a passion for the mountains to come to Val d’Isere. There were no lifts to get you up the slopes. You had to be dragged on sealskins by mules. Everyone carried spools of red wool to unwind for marking spots susceptible to avalanche.

Original vintage skiing poster by Paul Ordner (1900-1969) featuring a dynamic image of a skier carving through the turns of a slalom race on a mountain piste. Mont Revard is a mountain in the Bauges mountain range in Savoie, France, home to the Le Revard ski resort, also used as a finishing stage of the Tour de France. Mont Revard a 1550m – Ecole de Ski / Ski School – PLM (French railway line).

Today, skiing in Val d’Isere is a high-tech pursuit, but at the table, time-honored specialties of the region are very much in evidence—crozets (small cubes of buckwheat pasta), diots (local sausages, usually braised in white wine), polenta, and Potee. The Hotel Le Solaise is gone, but at the restaurant that bears its name, Laurent Caffot, the Machets’ grandson, prepares exquisite frogs’ legs and omble-chevalier. He turns plebeian snails into a light and elegant fricassee. And he is not afraid to marry foie gras with polenta, one of the simple foods of yesteryear. The roots of the village still run deep.

Still, local residents don’t forget their history: Charlemagne waged battles here against the Lombard armies; pilgrims and merchants passed through, traveling between France and Italy. The ascent from Piedmont was long and steep. On the French side, the slope was milder. Travelers made their descent in sledges made of bound branches, which moved fast but were short on comfort. Happily, at the end of the journey there were inns and taverns.

Chicken Savoyarde

The Savoy region of France borders on Switzerland and Italy and is jagged with the French Alps. It is well known for its wines, cheeses and Savoyarde cuisine, that is rich with cream and delicate cheese sauces. This recipe for Chicken Savoyarde is typical of that style of cooking, featuring sautéed chicken breasts that are cooked in a white wine and served with artichokes and a smooth velouté enriched with cream and Gruyere cheese. Broiled until bubbly and golden brown, this dish is a perfect entrée for a Sunday Dinner. The boneless chicken and artichoke bottoms, baked in a white wine sauce.  It can be prepared ahead and baked at the last minutes.  Very little work for gourmet main course.   You can serve this dish with a green salad, asparagus and mashed potatoes for a complete meal.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
4 whole chicken breasts, 1 1/2 pound each, boned, skinned, and split
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Salt, to taste
a dash of ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine

For the Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
¼ cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
½ tablespoon Clovis Tarragon Dijon Mustard™ (See Cook’s Notes)

One 14-ounce can of artichoke bottoms(See Cook’s Notes)
6 thin slices of Swiss cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Pat the chicken breasts dry with clean paper towels. Add the flour to a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper.  In a large heavy skillet, over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add onion, tarragon and them. Sauté onion until tender and translucent.

Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. To the onion mixture in the skillet, add the chicken breasts, four pieces at a time, arrange then in a single layer. Sauté the chicken breasts for 15 minutes, turning once with tongs. Remove the chicken from the skillet; add the remaining uncooked chicken breasts and repeat the cooking process. Return all the chicken to the skillet.

To the sautéed chicken breasts in the skillet, add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a dash of pepper and 1/2 cup dry white wine; mix well. Cover and simmer the chicken over low heat for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

To Make the Sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook gently for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, and gradually stir in the stock and wine. Finally, add the cream, tarragon and a little salt and pepper to taste. Return to the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, then stir in the cheese and the mustard. Taste and adjust seasonings. Use in a chicken gratin as directed below.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, gently warm the artichokes and drain.

Arrange the chicken breasts  in a shallow heat proof baking dish, preferably glass. Arrange the artichokes around the chicken. Spoon the sauce all over the chicken and artichokes. Lay a slice of Swiss cheese on top of each chicken breast. Sprinkle with a dusting of Parmesan cheese. Place the baking dish under the broiler and broil until chicken is thoroughly heated and the cheese is bubbly, about 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve hot, family style.

Cook’s Notes:

Sauce: You can make this sauce as a stand alone accompaniment for other dishes. The sauce makes the perfect partner to Sunday’s roast chicken and can equally well be used to dress up the left-over chicken next day.

Mustard: If you cannot find  Clovis Tarragon Dijon Mustard™, feel free to use 1 tablespoon of commercially prepared mustard and 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh tarragon as reasonable substitutes.

Sour Cream: You can substitute sour cream for the heavy cream. There are variations of this recipe that do use sour cream and sometimes half & half.

Onion Mixture: In the original recipe, it appears that the onions were discarded in the presentation of the final dish. In making a kitchen sustainable, the onion and wine mixture can be pureed and frozen for future use, such as a base for a  vegetable or onion soup.

Artichokes: Canned artichoke bottoms sliced is used n this recipe. But you can also use artichoke hearts, if artichoke bottoms are not available in your local supermarket.  Also note that fresh Jerusalem artichokes, when in season, are delicious and a less expensive alternative to artichoke hearts and bottoms. To cook them, scrub the artichokes; boil in salted water until fork tender. Drain, peel and slice into rounds.

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Cassoulet

So, it looks like I ‘m stuck in France, at least in the Kitchen at home……….

 

 

 

 

 

There is no dish in the Southwest France more iconic and cherished, than the cassoulet.

This  rich and  hearty slow-simmered stew has peasant roots and is made with of  pork ,  duck or garlic sausages, confit (typically duck), pork, and sometimes mutton, pork skin (couennes) and Tarbais white beans (haricots blancs), originating in  the New World , more than likely first cultivated in Mexico and imported to Europe by Christopher Columbus. Subsequently, Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, facilitated the mass importation of the white bean, which started to be cultivated extensively throughout Southwest France.

The dish is said to have originated in the town of Castelnaudary, and is particularly popular in the neighboring towns of Toulouse and Carcassonne. It is associated with the region once known as the province of Languedoc.The dish is  named after its traditional cooking vessel, the casserole, a deep, round, conical e arthenware pot with slanting sides.

Legend has it that the first cassoulet is claimed by the city of Castelnaudary, which was under siege by the British during the Hundred Years’  War (1337 to 1453) . The beleaguered townspeople gathered up the ingredients they could find and made a large stew to nourish and bolster their defenders. The meal was so hearty and fortifying that the soldiers handily dispelled the invaders, saving the city from occupation. But the origin of cassoulet is probably the result of more global interactions than the Castelnaudary legend would suggest.

Since its composition is based on local  availability, cassoulet varies from town to town in Southwest France. In Castelnaudary, cassoulet is prepared with duck confit, pork shoulder and sausage. In Carcassonne a cassoulet will typically have mutton, and the Toulouse version has duck confit, Toulouse sausage, and is breaded on top. In Auch, only duck or goose meat is used, and crumbs are never added on top. And each town believes they make the one true cassoulet. Regardless of the which town has the most complete recipe, the best versions are cooked for hours for  several days,  until the beans and meat meld into a dish of luxuriant, velvety richness.

The French have always taken their food  and the sanctity of cassoulet very  seriously that there is a brotherhood – the Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet  de Castelnaudary– that defends the glory and quality of cassoulet in Castelnaudary, in part by conducting surprise taste tests of the cassoulets offered by local chefs. Since 1999, the Brotherhood has organized competitions and fairs featuring cassoulet . And there is an Academie Universelle du Cassoulet, whose members promote the cassoulet and its significant cultural heritage (they even have a theme song).

You will need plenty of time and patience when making a cassoulet, Prepared in advance, it’s an excellent option for entertaining — especially on cold winter nights when the  cold weather calls for a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. 

 

Bon Apetite!

 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 pound dried Tarbias beans
2 1/2 quarts unsalted chicken broth (10 cups)
3 ounces salt pork
2 duck confit legs
8 ounces fresh French garlic sausage
4 ounces boneless pork shoulder
4 ounces fresh pork skin
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Day 1:
Place 1 pound dried great northern beans in a large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 to 3 inches. Soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight.

Day 2:
Boil the beans for 5 minutes. Drain the beans. Place the beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a rapid boil over medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes. Drain again.

Bring 2 1/2 quarts unsalted chicken stock or broth to a boil over medium-high heat in the same pot. Add the beans, bring back to a boil, and skim off any scum. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook uncovered until the beans are just tender but still whole and unbroken, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cut the meats. Dice 3 ounces salt pork. Halve 2 duck confit legs between the joint so that you have 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs. Cut 8 ounces garlic sausage into 2-inch pieces. Cut 4 ounces boneless pork shoulder or belly into 2-inch chunks. Cut 4 ounces fresh pork skin into 2-inch squares if using.

Make a salt pork and garlic paste. Place the salt pork and 3 garlic cloves in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process into a sticky paste, about 15 seconds. (Alternatively, chop by hand into a paste.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

Sear the duck and pork. Place the duck skin-side down in a large frying pan over medium-low heat and cook until golden-brown, 5 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add the sausage to the pan and cook into browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the plate. Add the pork belly or shoulder and cook until browned on a few sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to the plate. Refrigerate the meats until ready to use.

Cool the beans. When the beans are ready, remove from the heat and let cool until warm to the touch, about 1 hour.

Season the beans. Add the garlic-pork paste, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the beans and stir gently to combine, breaking up the paste so that is it evenly distributed.

Drain the beans. Pour the bean mixture through a strainer fitted over a large bowl.

Line the cooking vessel. Use a French clay cassole if you have one. Otherwise you can use a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed, oven safe pot. Line the bottom of the vessel with the cut pork skin if using.

Assemble the cassoulet. Layer half of the beans on top of the pork skin. Place the duck confit and pork shoulder or belly on the beans. Layer the remaining beans over the duck and pork. Top with the sausages, nestling them into the beans until just their tops are visible.

Top with cooking liquid. Pour enough of the bean cooking liquid into the cassoulet to barely cover the beans. Sprinkle a dusting of freshly ground black pepper across the surface. You can immediately move on to the next step and bake it for 3 hours, or the cassoulet can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Refrigerate the remaining bean cooking liquid.

Bake the cassoulet for 3 hours. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Bake the cassoulet uncovered for 3 hours. While it is cooking, it will develop a brown crust on top. Pierce the crust and moisten the surface by spooning some of the cooking liquid over it, taking care not to disturb the layers below. Allow the crust to re-form 2 or 3 times. If the beans start to look dry, moisten them with several spoonfuls of extra bean-cooking liquid or chicken broth. Let the cassoulet cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3:
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Uncover the cassoulet and bake for 1 1/2 hours, breaking the crust with a spoon and moistening the surface at least twice. If the beans look dry, add spoonfuls of extra bean-cooking liquid or chicken broth. You can serve the cassoulet now, or let it cool to room temperature and cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 4:
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Heat the cassoulet for 1 1/2 hours, moistening with extra bean-cooking liquid or chicken broth as necessary. Serve immediately in its vessel, gently simmering and unstirred along with a simple green salad dressed in a sharp vinaigrette, a loaf of crusty bread, and a full-bodied red wine.

 

 

Cook’s Notes:

Beans substitution: Great White Northern beans of Cannelli Beans will work well with this recipe.

Garlic sausage substitution: Fresh pork sausage, such as a mild, sweet Italian sausage without fennel can be substituted for the garlic sausage.

Salt pork substitution: You can use bacon but it is not traditional and does add a distinct smokiness, which is not unpleasant but cassoulet purists would disapprove.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 5 days.

 

 

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Nikki Giovanni’s Butter-Fried Chicken

Great food, a bottle of wine and great literature go hand in hand…….

New York Time journalist Elizabeth Harris interviewed the poet Nikki Giovanni for an article that appeared in the newspaper during the week of December 14,2020. Giovanni, 77, whose 19th collection of poems, “Make Me Rain,” came out this Fall. In the course of their discussion, Giovanni told  Harris about the butter-fried chicken she makes for dinner sometimes. That recipe didn’t make it into the final copy of the interview, but Harris did share Giovanni’s recipe with the rest of us in a .a brief excerpt found in the NYT Cooking column on-line.

It’s not so much a recipe as it is a no-recipe recipe, like the one’s our Grandmothers would hand down by word of mouth, and it results in an excellent chicken dish. The texture of the outer layer is crispy and the inner part is juicy and tender.  And in Giovanni’s own words:

“I’m a Southern cook so I use whatever is around. Cut the chicken up or if you are lucky and working purchase wings. There is no such thing as too much butter. A half stick is usually good, though. Put a couple of cloves of garlic in the skillet to let them simmer. I like to rub the wings with ginger but I forgot to tell you a shake or two of nutmeg really helps. If summer, get your rosemary from the garden or your tarragon or whatever is green growing. Do not roll a lot of flour on them. Just enough to cover then shake off. Do not batter them. You are not, after all, a chef trying to stretch your money.”
“Cook that floured chicken slowly,” Giovanni emphasized. “If you don’t have time to slowly fry,” she wrote, “then remember the old blues song: ‘Come back tomorrow and try it again.’   

It really takes the hand of an experienced cook to fry chicken in butter as it is a slow and tedious process. Scientifically, it is possible to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in butter, provided the temperature is kept below the 350° F frying point without danger of burning the chicken and the milk proteins found in the butter, as you find in Italian cuisine. As for bone-in chicken with the skin on, butter helps the skin to go brown because the milk solids in the butter brown, but it doesn’t make the chicken crispier by any means. Butter is used for colour and flavor. For that very reason, we adapted Nikki Giovanni’s recipe and we recommend frying the chicken in a combination of vegetable oil and butter, after thoroughly drying your bird, and reducing the temperature while frying the chicken to a slow simmer. This slow simmering of the chicken in butter is reminiscent of the term, à la meunière, which can be roughly translated as, in the manner of miller’s wifein reference to a French cooking technique in which a whole fish or  fish fillets are lightly dusted in flour and then sautéed in butter. The technique is easily adapted by replacing the main ingredients or incorporating additional elements.

Try it for dinner and see if it doesn’t suit your taste. We think it’s delicious, warm and fragrant, and is most  excellent when paired with  a nice Chardonnay! 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
One 3-4 lb chicken cut up, or 3 pounds of thighs, drumsticks and wings
1 cup all purpose flour
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 stalk of celery
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 stick of unsalted butter
 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 175 º F.

To prepare a draining station, set a wire rack in a rimmed baking pan. lined with paper towels; set aside.

Using clean paper towels, pat the chicken dry. Season with salt and pepper and set aside on a clean plate.

In a large bowl, add flour, salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, allspice and oregano. Mix them well until it is all incorporated.

Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour and set aside on a rack to dry. Repeat the same dredging process for the remainder of the chicken pieces.

Add the  vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the  oil  to 350 ºF. Add the butter, garlic cloves, rosemary and celery stalk. Add the chicken, and shallow fry for 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to fry the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes. Using tongs, turn and rotate the chicken pieces every few minutes to ensure even cooking and prevent the skin from burning, until the chicken is golden brown in color and the internal temperature of the chicken is 165° F (See Cook’s Notes Below).  

Transfer chicken to the prepared paper towel lined tray, and drain the chicken. Transfer the chicken to the oven to keep warm and repeat frying the rest of the chicken.

Serve immediately with your choice of tabasco sauce and side dishes, like potato salad, coleslaw, collard greens, or green beans.

 

Cook’s Notes:

As an alternative to using a mix of vegetable oil and butter, you can also use Crisco Butter Flavor Shortening. For the record, Crisco shortening has 50 percent less saturated fat than butter and 0g trans fat per serving. It is excellent for frying, and great for baking – giving you higher, lighter-textured baked goods, in addition to adding  a rich buttery flavor to foods.

While frying the chicken, cook slowly of medium-low heat, just about to a simmer, to prevent the flour from burning.

Use thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken, being careful not to touch the bones. Don’t be afraid to break the chicken’s crust to take the meat’s internal temperature; it should read 165 ° F.  Drumsticks/thighs are also done at 175 ° F.  Being on the safe side, a broken crust is vastly preferable to undercooked chicken. Plan on the whole process of  frying chicken to taking around 15–25 minutes, keeping in mind that white meat will cook faster than dark.

 

Recommended Products:

We are starting a new feature with this blog.  We get so many questions in our emails about the products we used in our recipes as well as the styling featuring our plates and props in the photographs. And running a free blog is not cheap endeavor, with  researching our favorite dishes, purchasing food props, and eventually cooking the dish and writing it up for your enjoyment.

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, we earn a very small commission from qualifying purchases.  These commissions help support  our blog in  providing you, our loyal followers, free access to our content.

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Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose by Nikki Giovanni 

Butter Flavor Crisco All Vegetable Shortening, 48 oz.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Combo Cooker, 2-Piece Set 

Saferell Instant Read Digital Food Thermometer

 

 

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

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