Saturday, October 5, 2013

Poulet Vallee d'Auge

Chicken browned in butter

Onions, leeks, apples and celery

Flames after pouring in brandy
Chicken braising

Mushrooms sauteeing in butter

Apples sauteed in butter

Poulet Vallee d'Auge

This dish is named for the apple-growing region in Normandy, France although it is popular in Brittany as well.  It is the same place where Calvados, the apple brandy originates.  Both ingredients appear in this dish which has a rich and creamy sauce.  If you hear it referred to as Poulet au Cidre, it means the chicken was cooked in apple cider rather than chicken stock.
Poulet Vallée d’Auge
5 lbs chicken
3 apples
1 ½  tablespoons lemon juice
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise ¼” thick
2 ½ oz butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
½ celery stalk, finely chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup Calvados or brandy
1 ½ cups chicken stock
½ lb crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, trimmed, halved
1/3 cup crème fraîche
1.        If using a whole chicken, cut it into eight pieces.  If using breasts with ribs attached, cut them into half.
2.       Peel and core the apples.  Finely chop half of one apple and cut the rest into 12 wedges.  Toss the apple slices  in the lemon juice.
3.       Heat half of the butter in a large pan, then add the chicken pieces, skin side down, and cook until golden.  Turn over and cook for another 5 minutes.  Lift the chicken out of the pan and tip away the fat.
4.       Heat 1 tablespoon more butter in the same pan, add the onion, leeks, celery and chopped apple and fry over moderate heat for 5 minutes without browning.
5.       Remove from heat.  Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and stir in.  Add the Calvados, and ignite with a long match or lighter. After flames die down, return to the heat.   Gradually stir in the chicken stock.  Bring to the boil, return the chicken to the pan, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
6.       In the meantime, heat the remaining butter in a small frying pan.  Add the apple wedges and fry over moderate heat until browned and tender.  Remove from the pan and keep warm.  Do the same with the mushrooms.
7.       Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm.  Skim the excess fat from the cooking liquid.  Add the crème fraîche, bring to the boil and boil for 4 minutes, or until the sauce is thick enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Season and pour over the chicken.  Serve with the apple wedges and mushrooms.
Although I’m not a big fan of sweet and savory together I decided to try this dish because I’ve always wanted to flambé.  No, I’m not a pyromaniac; I just wanted to see how long alcohol in food burns, and what happens to the food as the alcohol burns.  I was not disappointed.
I cooked this dish while my son and his girlfriend were visiting.  Actually, I was teaching her how to make jam.  I found a recipe for Poulet Vallée d’Auge in my French cookbook (The Food of France A Journey for Food Lovers) a couple of weeks ago, and then a few days before I made the dish when I opened my October issue of Bon Appetít, there was a recipe for the same dish (but with more ingredients and the directions slightly different) by Mimi Thorisson.  How serendipitous is that!  I liked the simplicity of one and the detail of the other so I decided to combine the two and make it my own. 
While the chicken was browning in the butter, Jen kept saying how good it smelled.  Indeed, it was very fragrant.  Jen helped me make the dish while she told me of their culinary adventures.  I kept going back and forth between the two recipes trying to marry them which was very interesting.  When it came time to pour the brandy into the pot with the vegetables, I had Jen take the pictures.  After I poured the brandy, I lit it with a utility all-purpose lighter like the one I use when grilling.  Immediately, the dish went up in flames!  Neither recipe said what to do while the alcohol burned.  When I saw that the bay leaves caught fire I started to stir the ingredients.  And it kept on burning.  So I kept stirring, and Jen kept taking pictures.  Thank goodness I was using a 5 quart pot.  Finally the flames died down, and we continued with the recipe. 
Have you ever flambéed?  What was the dish?  If you haven’t, would you like to try it?


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