Chicken Provencal

 

Chick Provencal 4

 “Yum, this dish is delicious!” said my husband, as he treated himself to a second helping of my Chicken Provencal. “Is this recipe French or Italian?”

It’s French, of course, but I couldn’t blame him for thinking it could have come from Italy. Chicken Provencal (or Poulet Provençal) is a native dish from the region of Provence, located in the southeast corner of France. Because of its proximity to the Italian border, the food in Provence is highly influenced by Italy and the bounty from the Mediterranean Sea.

Bouillabaisse, Ratatouille, Salade Niçoise and Pisaladière – these are all dishes that spring from Provence. (How well I remember making Bouillabaisse while living in France, using the scary-looking red scorpion fish)!

Scorpion Fish

Like most cuisine from the region, Chicken Provencal uses lots of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, olives and a special mixture of herbs known as herbes de Provence. This is a mixture of dried herbs including oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and fennel seeds. Have some fun making up your own mixture of herbes de Provence and you can even use it later in many other dishes.

Chicken Provencal is not difficult to make – it’s mainly a chicken stew with lots of flavours infused from white wine, chicken stock, tomatoes, red capsicums and herbs (and I’ve even added one anchovy)!

“Can I have a third helping of Chicken Provencal?” my husband asked. “No”, I replied, “you’ve got to leave room for your dessert: Profiteroles with Custard Cream and Chocolate Sauce !”

Chick Provencal

 Recipe for Herbes de Provence

2 tablespoons each of dried thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and savory (optional) and 1 tablespoon of ground fennel seeds.

Chicken Provencal
 
Recipe Type: Lunch or Dinner
Cuisine: French
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 7 – 8
Succulent chicken pieces dripping with flavours from the French Provence region.
Ingredients
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 7 – 8 Chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
  • Salt/pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 anchovy fillet, chopped
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
  • 1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Several sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 tsp Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 10 -12 pitted olives
  • Chopped parsley leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven griller.
  2. Slice the bell pepper into quarters and remove the seeds and inner membrane. Rub the outer skin with olive oil and place in the oven griller for several minutes until the skin blisters and blackens a little. Place inside a plastic bag to cool, then cut the pepper into thin strips.
  3. Reduce oven to 180 C.
  4. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Over medium-high heat, brown both sides of each chicken thigh, starting with the skin side first.
  5. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and let drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Retain at least 1 tbsp of oil/fat in the pan.
  6. ‘Sweat’ the diced onion in the pan until translucent in color, then add the garlic and simmer for another 1 -2 minutes.
  7. Add the chopped anchovy and cayenne. Stir in the white wine and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan using the edge of a spatula or wooden spoon.
  8. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan: chicken stock, tomato paste, bell pepper slices, fresh thyme leaves, bay leaf and Herbes de Provence.
  9. Add the chicken pieces back to the pan. If necessary, add more chicken stock to ensure the chicken pieces are completely covered with liquid.
  10. Cover the Dutch oven or skillet and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the meat falls off the bone.
  11. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan, cover with foil and let rest while preparing the sauce.
  12. Remove the bay leaf from the pan, add the lemon zest and bring the ingredients to a soft boil. Reduce heat and stir occasionally until the sauce is reduced to about 1 ½ cups. Add the olives and heat for an additional one minute.
  13. To serve, place several chicken pieces on a bed of rice, spoon some sauce over the chicken and garnish with several parsley sprigs.
 

 

Chocolate Cake with Creamy Chocolate Icing and Strawberries

Choc Cake 3

 

Foodie Smiley Pix

Thanks Joanne from What’s on the List for inviting me to this week’s Foodie Friends Friday Foods That Make us Smile Party!

Decadent and delicious – that’s what this cake is. Better yet, each component is easy to make! Some cakes are light and fluffy, but this one is rich and compact.

Dark chocolate, milk, eggs, sugar – this recipe has got it all, but it’s the almond paste that is the star of the show here. You might be able to find this product in a store, but it’s easy to make your own – just pop your almonds in a food processor, add the sugar, egg whites and almond flavouring and you’re done!

And of course, the ‘strawberry stars‘ decorating the cake give a nice crowning touch to your chocolate masterpiece, with instructions given below.

But first, a friendly word of advice. I had seen a picture of this cake on the internet, with fancy swirls of chocolate icing piped onto the cake. So, I got out my pastry bag and nozzle and then piped, squeezed and swirled to my heart’s content, but to no avail. The cake just did not look good and it was too ‘finicky.’

So I remembered the words of Henry David Thoreau in Walden, “Simplify, Simplify.” I took a knife and undid all the fancy swirls of chocolate icing –  I uncurled, unfurled and un-piped – I Simplified. I made this cake my own. And it looked a lot better!

You can either bake this cake in a 22 cm (9 inch) round cake pan or use several small molds. I used two small tart pans with a removable base for my cake.

To make the almond paste

Ingredients

2 cups blanched almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons almond extract (optional)

  •  Add the blanched almonds and sugar to a food processor and process until the mixture becomes like a fine powder.
  • Add the softened butter, egg whites and almond extract and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge until ready to use.

 Recipe for the Almond Paste is courtesy of ‘Simply so Good’ blog.

To make the ‘Strawberry Stars

In the middle of the strawberry, make a small cut on the diagonal, with the knife point piercing into the center of the fruit.

 Strawberry cut

Continue this zig-zag pattern all the way around the strawberry. When you have completed the pattern, separate the two halves of the strawberry.

Strawberry pull apart

This recipe is adapted from Le Cordon Bleu- Paris.

Chocolate Cake with Creamy Chocolate Icing and Strawberries
 
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • <b>Creamy Chocolate Icing</b>
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50 g sugar
  • 250 ml milk
  • 275 g dark chocolate, chopped
  • <b>For the Cake Batter</b>
  • 30 g butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 200 g almond paste
  • 15 g flour
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. chocolate icing (from above recipe)
  • 2 baking powder
  • pinch salt
Instructions
  1. <b>Prepare the icing.</b>
  2. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together until pale and thick.
  3. In a separate pan, bring the milk to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gradually stir the egg mixture into the milk, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Be careful not to boil the mixture or the eggs will ‘scramble.’
  4. Now add the chopped chocolate bits and stir until the chocolate has thoroughly melted. Refrigerate for at least one hour until the icing thickens and sets.
  5. <b>Prepare the Cake Batter</b>
  6. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter small molds or one large round cake pan.
  7. Melt the butter in a saucepan and set aside. Beat the eggs into the almond paste, one at a time. Continue whisking for 5 minutes; or until the mixture is pale and thick.
  8. Fold in the flour, cocoa, 2 tbsp. chocolate icing, salt and baking powder; then add the melted butter.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared molds (or one large cake pan) up to 2/3 full. Bake for 12 minutes or until a small knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and dry. Turn out onto a rack and let cool.
  10. Place chocolate icing on the cake and decorate with the strawberry stars. Add whipped cream if desired.
 

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Quiche Lorraine – Back to the French Basics

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There are so many Quiche Lorraine recipes floating around, at first I thought, “Why bother doing another one?” But then I realised that Quiche Lorraine is a French dish, so let’s get down and reveal those basic French techniques that make this recipe such a classic!

To make the pastry crust for a quiche, it’s easy to just pop the flour and butter in a food processor, pulse for a few seconds, add the egg and water and let the machine turn out a ‘perfect dough’ for you. But here are a few techniques I leaned at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris that will help you to make an authentic Quiche Lorraine. In the words of Julia Child, “A good French pastry crust should be tender, crunchy and buttery.”

To make a good French pastry dough, your hands, fingers and arm become active, first rubbing the butter and flour together with your palms, then ‘kneading’ the dough using the heel of your hand, ending with a perfect ball of dough. Almost feels like a gym workout after you’ve finished!

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please do ‘like’ my G’day Souffle’ Facebook page!

 Method for Making the Dough for the Quiche Lorraine

Recipe adapted from Le Cordon Bleu school

Ingredients

  • 100 g cold butter, cubed
  • 200 g flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. cold water

Step 1 –  Sabler the butter and flour together

Cut the cold butter into cubes and then add to the flour in a large bowl. Rub the butter and flour together briskly between the palms of your hands and tips of your fingers until it becomes like sand. Since sable is the word for ‘sand’ in French, this technique is called sabler.

 

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The end result: your dough should resemble fine sand.

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Step 2 – Make a well in the middle of the dough and add 1 egg.

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Step 3 – Mix the ingredients and transfer to your work surface

Mix the egg into the flour/butter mixture, then add 2 – 3 tbsp. cold water. The dough should be moist and be able to hold together its shape. Transfer the rough dough mixture onto a floured surface and gather into a mound shape, using the aid of a pastry scraper.

Dough 1

Step 4Fraiser the dough on the work surface.

Using the heel of your hand, push one portion of the dough along the work surface with an outward movement. Regather the dough using the aid of the pastry scraper. Repeat several times until the dough comes together into a firm ball. This technique is called fraiser la pâte or le fraisage (the final blending of flour and butter).

 Fraiser la pâte :  Push a portion of the dough away from you, using the heel of your hand.fraiser

 Repeat several times until you form a firm dough ball.

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Next steps: roll out the dough on a floured surface, turning the dough 1/4 turns as you go. Roll the dough so that it overhangs 2 cm over the edge of the quiche tin.

Next, pass a rolling pin across the top of the quiche mould so that it cuts through the dough and then lift the excess dough away from the mold. Prick the dough with the ends of a fork, add parchment paper and pie weights to the quiche tin, then blind bake for 15 minutes (see instructions for my post on White Chocolate Tart with Cherries in Red Wine Sauce).

You’re now ready to add the quiche filling to complete your delicious authentic Quiche Lorraine!

Quiche Lorraine (1 of 2)jpg

Quiche Lorraine – Back to the French Basics
 
Recipe Type: Lunch or Dinner
Cuisine: French
Author: Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu recipe
Serves: 8
Quiche Lorraine recipe using the authentic French techniques for preparing the pastry dough.
Ingredients
  • [b]Shortcrust Pastry[/b]
  • 200 g flour
  • 100 g cold butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp cold water (more, if required)
  • Filling
  • 180 g smoked speck bacon, cut into cubes
  • 100 g Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 125 ml thickened cream
  • 125 ml whole milk
  • Salt, pepper
  • Nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. In a large bowl, add 200 grams of flour. Cut 100 grams of cold butter into small cubes then add to flour mixture. Rub the butter and flour between the palms of your hands until it becomes like sand.
  3. Make a well in centre of the flour mixture- add the egg into well and stir; add the cold water a little at a time.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and then push the dough out away from you on the countertop, using the palm of your hand (le fraisage). Cover the dough with plastic and place in fridge for 15 – 30 minutes.
  5. Roll-out the dough making occasional quarter turns- leave 2 cm margin larger than the quiche mould.
  6. Drape the dough over the mould leaving the 2 cm margin- gently push the dough down to fit the shape of the mould. Prick bottom of crust with a fork.
  7. To blind bake the dough:
  8. Place parchment paper inside of mould and fill with pie weights or raw rice. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Remove pie weights and let dough cool.
  9. Remove rind and cartilage from the bacon slab- cut into small cubes . Slightly brown the bacon bits with a little butter, over medium high heat and then drain on kitchen paper.
  10. Grate the Gruyère cheese and place it on bottom of baked quiche dough, then add the bacon bits.
  11. Prepare the filling: beat 3 eggs together, then add the cream, milk, salt and pepper to the mixture. Add this to the cooked quiche dough then top with a little more of the grated cheese.
  12. Bake for 30-40 minutes – quiche should be light brown ‘biscuit colour.’
  13. Let the quiche cool then remove the bottom from the quiche tin.
  14. Place chopped parsley garnish on top of quiche and several small pieces of bacon- this will also serve to identify the type of quiche you have just made.
 

 

Salmon and Watercress Salad (Cressonière de Saumon Frais en Salade)

 

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Watercress Salad

 

 

This salad recipe was demonstrated to us on the first day of Intermediate Cuisine at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu school in 2012. Recently, I’ve been thumbing through my notebook of LCB recipes and I thought this one would be a good ‘starter’ dish for having company over to dinner.

This dish is rich in colour and texture, and the addition of watercress, with its slightly ‘peppery’ taste, makes a good addition to the salad (how many times do we roll are eyes upward saying to ourselves, “Not another boring salad!”)

And the watercress also appears in the vinaigrette dressing itself – you pop a hand full of watercress into a blender along with the oil and wine vinegar, and you’ve got yourself a nice salad dressing that can also be used to decorate the plate with ‘dots’ later on.

When do you eat your salad – before, during or after the main meal?

Before revealing the recipe, I’ve been musing about different cultures and at what point in the meal they decide to eat their salads. Americans eat their salad ‘first thing off the bat’, before the main course. Once, I remember having some Australian friends over for dinner and I served the salad on a separate plate before the main course. One guest waited to eat his salad until the main course was served and he then scraped the salad onto his main dinner plate. He said Aussies normally don’t eat the salad on a separate plate.

The French, on the other hand, tend to eat the salad after the main meal, supposedly as a palate cleanser. Any you, my friends, when do you like to eat you salad?

 Watercress – rich in Vitamins A and CWatercress Pix

 Salmon and Watercress Salad – Cressonnière de Saumon en Salade

 Adapted from the Le Cordon Bleu recipe

Serves 4

 Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 30 ml red wine vinegar
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ bunch watercess
  • Salt, pepper

 Salmon Mixture

  • 400 g fresh salmon
  • white wine and lemon
  • 1 hard boiled egg chopped finely
  • 1 spring onion- diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 tbsp vinaigrette dressing (see above)

 Salad Mixture

  • 4 tomatoes, peeled and cut into petals
  • 1 small lettuce
  • ½ bunch watercress
  • Rocket (arugula)
  • 150 g smoked salmon, sliced finely

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  • Place all ingredients for the vinaigrette into a blender and blend until mixture is smooth.
  • Wrap the pieces of fresh salmon in foil. Drizzle with a little white wine and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake the salmon for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until the flesh is no longer pink inside. Remove from oven and let cool.
  • Break the salmon up into fine pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the diced spring onion, finely chopped boiled egg, salt and pepper and 1 -2 tbsp. vinaigrette to the mixture.
  • Prepare the tomato petals: bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Remove the top core of each tomato and cut an ‘X’ on the bottom of each one. Place each one into the boiling water for about 1 minute to loosen the skin. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool down.
  • Peel the tomatoes, first cut into quarters then cut these in half, so you have 8 petals for each tomato. Remove all seeds. Marinate the petals in a little vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the lettuce, rocket and water cress into a large bowl and coat with the vinaigrette dressing.
  • To assemble the salad, first place some rocket pieces on a plate, pointing outwards (like sunrays), then add a small clump of salad mixture in the middle.

 Salmon Salad Final 2

  • Next, place a ring of overlapping tomato petals around the salad clump.

Salmon Salad Final 3

  • Now fill each tomato ring with the salmon mixture and place thin ‘ropes’ of smoked salmon around the fresh salmon.

Salmon Salad Final

  • Add a bit more salad leaves around the outside of the tomato.Garnish with a few watercress pieces on top of the salmon and small edible flowers (optional). Decorate the plate with small dots of the vinaigrette dressing.

 

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