Friday, July 25, 2014

chicken breasts poached in butter...

...with wine & cream sauce + other recipes from Julia Child.
It may not have been the prettiest girl at the dance but it was pretty damn delicious.

For the last several weeks I’ve been working on a labor of love for my niece’s bridal shower, an illustrated collection of recipes, photos and other kitchen anecdotes which boiled all down to family, friends and food.

Simultaneously, I had returned to “Dearie” the biography of Julia Child I’d started last year, then ADD’d elsewhere. I resumed it at the point she gets to France and the germ of Mastering the Art of French Cooking sprouts. She was relentless in getting each recipe perfect, persevering through battles with her co-authors and the rejections from her first publisher. Her determination and goal-oriented stubbornness paralleled  and motivated my drive to finish my project.
She was obsessed. I was curious. Oddly enough, I've never read Mastering the Art of French Cooking, though I had, somewhere,  The French Chef Cookbook I'd picked up a library book sale years ago. I dug it out and I bookmarked a few things.

First up: Supremes de Volaille a Blanc or Chicken breasts poached in butter, with wine and cream sauce. A supreme is the skinless, boneless, breast of a chicken removed raw from the whole bird. The recipe calls for 4 "supremes", I cooked 2 fairly large breasts.
The chicken breasts, rubbed with lemon juice, salt & pepper (white pepper-Julia only used white pepper) are oven poached in butter, then a sauce is made from that same chicken juice infused butter by adding broth, wine and cream-I mean seriously what’s not to love about that?

Julia was first and foremost, a teacher and the recipes are fairly idiot proof, even though I bought half and half instead of cream. I thought it was cream, so my sauce never quite emulsified due to the water in the half in half I’m thinking. I whisked really well and it looked beautiful for about 3 minutes then tiny oily globules started to form…well…live and learn. It tasted amazing though. I’m thinking, in part, because I didn’t skimp on the vermouth. By that I mean quality. I used this:

I cooked two breasts that were rather large so they took longer to cook. I may have over cooked them the teeeensiest bit. I guess I could have cut them in half or even sliced them since that’s what I did after they were cooked, but I think leaving them whole produces more juice which in turn flavors the sauce. I used Smart & Final brand beef bouillion-yeah I know-it’s all I had (I'm a huge fan of the Better Than Bouillion brand). Whatever. They were delicious! The sauce, in spite of my half and half debacle was rich and flavorful.

I also made a delicious risotto from the book. It's finished in the oven-- super low-maintenance. You  need to start it in some kind of casserole dish that can go from stove top to oven. Julia’s recipe calls for plain white rice. I had some Arborio left so I used it. Super simple. Dice onion, sauté in butter, stir in rice and cook for a minute, pour in bouillion, an herb bag or a bouquet garni of parsley thyme & bay leaf and pop in the oven for 18 minutes. Fluff. Done & delish.

Recipe #3 was Haricots Verts au Maitre D’hotel-or fresh green beans tossed with butter, lemon juice and parsley.

The green beans are blanched then tossed in a dry pan to remove the moisture then seasoned with salt & pepper, tossed with butter and then a splash of lemon juice and chopped parsley. Great recipe. A great way to cook green vegetables-broccoli, asparagus etc.

Cooking the Chicken Breasts

4 supremes
 ½ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Big pinch white pepper
4 tablespoons butter
A heavy, covered casserole dish that can go from stovetop to oven
A round of parchment paper cut to fit the casserole
A hot serving dish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat butter in the casserole until foaming. Quickly roll the chicken breasts in the butter, lay the paper over them, cover the casserole, and place in hot oven. After 6 minutes, press tops of suprêmes with your finger; if still soft and squashy, return to the oven for a minute or two more. They are done when they feel lightly springy and resilient; do not overcook them. Remove the suprêmes to a hot serving dish; cover and keep warm while making the sauce, which will take 2 to 3 minutes.

Wine & Cream Sauce:
1/4 cup white or brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/4 cup port, Madeira, or dry white vermouth
1 cup heavy cream
Salt, white pepper, and lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

Pour the stock or bouillon and the wine into the casserole with the cooking butter, and boil down rapidly over high heat until the liquid is syrupy. Then pour in the cream, and boil rapidly until lightly thickened. Season carefully with salt, pepper, and drops of lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the suprêmes, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.


1/3 cup finely minced onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup unwashed raw white rice
¼ cup dry white French vermouth, optional
2 cups light chicken stock heated in a small saucepan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf (or a small herb bouquet—l small bay leaf, 1/8 tsp thyme, and 3 parsley sprigs tied in washed cheesecloth)


Sauté the onions slowly in the butter for several minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the rice and sauté, slowly stirring, for several minutes more until the grains, which first become translucent, turn a milky white. This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking.
Braising. If you are using vermouth, stir it in now and let it boil down for a moment. Blend in the chicken stock, correct seasoning, and add the bay leaf or herb bouquet. Bring to the boil, stir thoroughly, then cover tightly and finish in the oven, baking for 18 minutes. Do not stir it at all during this time. Check to see if there's any liquid at the bottom and return to the oven for another 2 minutes if necessary. Remove the bay leaf or herb bouquet, fluff the rice with a fork, taste & adjust seasoning if needed.

Green Beans

2 pounds of green beans
6-7 quarts boiling water
2 tablespoons salt
3-4 tablespoons butter cut into 3-4 pieces
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons of minced parsley

Trim the ends off the beans and plunge them into the boiling, salted water. Boil for about 6-8 minutes- I used the skinny French green beans from Trader Joes so they only took 6 minutes to get to a place I like- or until the larger of the beans is tender but still has a slight crunch. This really depends on  the size & quality of your beans. Farm fresh beans will take much less time than beans that have been sitting in the supermarket for a week or whatever. Pluck out a bean, taste it and stop when you like the bite.

Drain immediately and rinse well in cold water. This can be done ahead of time.
When ready to cook, toss the beans in the dry pot over medium heat until any remaining moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and stir in one piece of butter. Alternate additions of butter and lemon juice. Top with parsley just before serving.

I actually watched that episode on You Tube after and learned that it's important to use a big pot of boiling water because it will return to the boil much faster once you've plunged the beans in. The rapid boil and chill is the key to keeping the vegetables al dente and thusly-PERFECTLY cooked!

Old Dog. New Tricks.

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