Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Joyeuse Épiphanie! And all that. This site missed them all, of course, though its writer, happily, did not. There was cold weather and there were airplane rides and train rides and taxi rides and car drives. People at airports can get awfully mad. But then we were all there, and there was a chapon at Christmastime. And a bûche, of course. As well as some fish, both fresh and smoked. A few in our party hailed from Toulouse, and they brought along a proper feast of foie gras. I liked the mi-cuit version with salt best. There was also a lemon tart, which made no sense at all (I made it.), but it was good for breakfast.
We had chicken from Bresse at the New Year, which we stuffed with truffles, and ate with sage and cream and chestnuts and squash. I nicked the idea from a place I ate called Gaddi’s once. At some time in between there was a big and frigid wind, and we all got sick. I’d heard of something called poulet mistral, named after that wretched wind, but could find no indigenous record of it, so we had roast chicken instead.
This was in northern Provence, by the way, which is a beautiful part of the world when the wind is not busy making you sick, though it does make a tremendous sound.
We had eggs with truffles and brioche toast at the first of the year, and began our feast the night before with endives we caramelized and dry cured ham from San Daniele. The assault on the stomach was extreme and wonderful. Though it remains almost certainly my favorite topic of conversation, as well as the ostensible subject of this site, it may also have been beside the point. Love is the greatest luxury of all, of course; everything else is just a band-aid. Or so a fortune cookie once said.
Happy New Year, all.
Suprêmes de poulet de Bresse à la truffe
This is very old school. Chicken breasts remain somewhat out of vogue for cooking and eating, and the same goes for those cream sauces. But this doesn’t mean that they aren’t good. I had a version of this dish at a restaurant in Hong Kong several years ago. They stuffed a chicken breast with black truffles, shaved more on top, and then garnished the whole thing with a sort of foam made of winter squash. It was incredible. This preparation is a little more homey (no foam!), but I think the flavors are still there. Do consider serving with things like sweet winter squash and/or sautéed chestnuts.
2 chicken breasts with skin on, preferably the ‘suprême’ (i.e., with the wing bone attached) | 1 black truffle, preferably fresh | salt + pepper | butter, a lot | 1 small shallot, thinly sliced | white wine which is good enough to drink but cheap enough to boil | heavy cream | sage, several sprigs
Bring the chicken breasts to room temperature. Season with liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 375 F/180 C. Slice truffle as thinly as you can manage. Pick out the four prettiest slices and set aside. Loosen the skin of the chicken breasts and slide 2-3 slices underneath each. Heat a pan over medium high heat for a few minutes, then add a good bit of butter and a sprig of sage. The butter will foam. When that stops, add chicken breasts skin side down and sear for about 8 minutes. Don’t move them. If the color of the skin is not pretty after this time, set them back skin side down in the pan and leave them there until the color is good. Then place them on a shallow baking sheet or roasting pan and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. This step will take less time if you are not using the supreme. In the meantime, pour most of the fat off the frying pan, add fresh butter, and sauté the shallot, seasoning well and scraping up the lovely golden bits on the bottom of the pan. After they are translucent, deglaze with wine and reduce. On very low heat, swirl in cream, and more butter if you like. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish chicken with sauce, a chiffonade of sage, and two truffle slices each.