Saturday, October 6, 2007

Let's Pedal South

As I surrounded myself with cookbooks the past few days during my down time, I got to the point where I could not stay out of the kitchen any longer! Granted, my taste buds were not back to power yet and my nose was still giving me a run for my money. But..I was hungry after reading all the yummy recipes that I was paging through. While I was in lounge mode, I picked up one of my all time favorite books "Pedaling Through Provence Cookbook" by Sarah Leah Chase. Back in the mid 90's, I was lucky to travel to France twice. I had fallen in love with that country many years before then when I started getting into wines and food. So I have quite a collection of French cookbooks. But when I found out I was actually going to go there, I started planning out the trip as I did not want to waste one moment while I was there. I even had a tutor teach me basic French so I would at least understand the menu's and how to find out where the bathrooms were located! So in my planning stages I came across Sarah's book. She wrote 2 of them, Pedaling Through Provence and Pedaling Through Burgundy. They are great little books because she actually did bike through these locals and documented her experiences by town and recipe. So I used these books as guidelines when we were traveling there. Fun to say, they were a big help! So last evening I got the books into the kitchen and prepared the following.

This is one of Sarah's "Market Day" recipes. The inspiration for this dish was the cooking of Simone Beck, or Simca, who was best known in America as the French woman who collaborated with Julia Child on "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking".

Basil-Strewn String Bean Salad

First make yourself a Basil Vinaigrette
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea or course salt
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil

Sarah mentions she uses a mortar and pestle to make this, but I took the easy way out and made it in the blender. I put the garlic, salt and basil in the blender and then added the juice and oil through the top while machine was running.

Bean Salad
1 pound of green beans, trimmed and sliced in half
4 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup imported black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
6 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
And she adds 3 large hard cooked eggs peeled and chopped, but I omitted

Blanch your green beans until just crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water, drain again. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives and anchovies. Stir in the beans and fennel. Add the basil vinaigrette and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Chill the salad a few hours so the flavors will blend. If you do decide to use the eggs, add them right before serving the salad. This bright and lively salad is a great beginning to a meal!

In Sarah's section of the book "Suppers of Lamb And Other Fine Fare", I opted for some other fine fare. I chose her:

Chicken With Tomatoes, Tarragon Vinegar, And Creme Fraiche

The recipe called for 2 chickens, about 3 lbs. each cut into pieces. Since there were only 2 of us, I used only chicken thighs and cut the recipe in half. But I will give you the full recipe, as I have made this in the past for a dinner party of 6 folks.

3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 chickens cut into pieces
Sea or course salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion minced
5 cloves of garlic minced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 heaping tablespoons of tomato paste
1-1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup tarragon vinegar
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon or 1-1/2 tablespoons dried
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy whipping cream

Heat the olive oil in a heavy large deep skillet over medium high heat. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to the skillet to brown all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. You may have to do this in batches. Transfer browned chicken to a plate.
Add the onion, garlic and carrots to the skillet and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, vinegar, wine and thyme, bring to a simmer. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, cover and simmer over medium heat until the chicken is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thick and reduced by 1/3. Stir in the fresh tarragon and creme fraiche and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Add more salt and pepper at this time if needed. Return the chicken to the pot and simmer until chicken is heated through. Serve the chicken with plenty of sauce spooned over it. This sauce just makes this dish so special. It is so smooth and silky with the full flavor of the tomatoes, fresh tarragon and tarragon vinegar whose acidity was mellowed by the addition of the creme fraiche.

I did serve a white wine with our dinner, a French White Bordeaux, Chateau Chauvet. But since my taste buds are not back with me yet, I will review this wine for you later this week since I have a couple bottles of it in my wine rack.
Thank You!

I want to "thank" all of my special blogging friends for their well wishes this week. With the loss of the Gumbo Tree last week and the terrible cold this week...I am ready and hoping for a "back at it" uneventful week this week!



Shayne said...

I am happy to see that you are feeling good enough to cook. A shot or two of peppermint schnapps should get everything working for you to start tasting your wine again.

I am just watching James and the Giant Peach with the kids and this movie is really BAD.

winedeb said...

Hi Shayne, thanks for the advice on the schnapps!!!! James and the Giant Peach, well, cannot say that I have it on my line up! But hey, if the kids are enjoying...grab yourself a cookbook while you are watching with them!

katiez said...

Glad to hear you're feeling a bit better! That chicken sounds like the perfect cure... I love tarragon with chicken.
High on my list of things to do is to bike through Burgundy - some day....

winedeb said...

Hi Katie, I have never been on a biking trip, but doing it in France would be the best!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Glad to hear that you are feeling better Deb! Nothing like a little food from Provence to really hammer the last of the ickies out!

Valli said...

I knew you would be cooking up a storm in no time!!!All those comforting recipes are just waiting!!!I would love to travel to France again..but I think Italy is on the top of my list for the moment.

Belinda said...

Deb, I'm so pleased to hear that you are starting to bounce back from your cold, and are feeling perky enough to whip up an amazing French feast! The beans and the chicken, with the wonderful fresh herbs, sounds like the perfect meal, healthy, and full of fresh flavor. This should get you ready to move on to wines in the next day or so. :-)

winedeb said...

Jenn, so right you are!

Valli, I know what you mean about Italy, I sure would like to venture over there also!

Belinda, thank you so much for your kind words!. Yes, wine is coming up!