The dead animal dishes I’ve enjoyed most from this Bistro Cooking book (by Patricia Wells) have definitely been the dead chicken dishes. The dead cow dishes have all (I think? how long has this blog series gone on now? a decade or two?) been disappointing: Very heavy and somewhat offputting.
So this week I’m doing the next chicken dish instead of, well, anything else, because I want to have something good! For a change!
“La Volaille au…” Oh, I don’t know French! Whatever does that mean!
But I blogging concept is a blogging concept, and this is the next recipe in the book, so I have to cook it.
Otherwise I’d be arrested by the Conceptual Blogging Police.
ORDNUNG MUß SEIN!
So here are the ingredients… it’s not a lot of ingredients, which makes me even more despondent.
But at least I have some tomatoes to debone… and that’s all the prep there is, really.
So I pop the chicken bits into the pan (with some olive oil and butter).
By the way, the recipe says “medium high heat”, and that’s what I’m doing, but I wonder whether anybody has ever tried to make cooking directions more precise, like with baking. It’s all “bake at 180C” and stuff, but… with meats they could have done like “cook at 1.4kW” or something? Has that ever been a thing? Did somebody ever try to make that happen?
Because that’d make sense instead of just the plates going from like 0 to 10 (like mine does (well, they go to 11)), and instead there’d be something that says what the actual wattage is?
So after browsing the chicken bits (I just got thighs this time instead of an entire chicken because I loathe breasts (oops)), the cooking fat is removed, and I add a quarter litre (!) of red wine vinegar!
NOOOO! This is gonna suck.
So after reducing the vinegar for ten minutes (and turning the chicken bits to cover it all with the (eww!) vinegar), it’s time for the simmering bit, so I add chicken stock.
Speaking of which, this is “organic” chicken stock, or as it’s called in Norway, “ecological” chicken stock. (The Germans call it “biological” chicken stock.) Not because I think normal chickens will kill me, but because “organic” for animal stuff means “kinder to animals”. Or, “we’ll torture the animals a bit less before we kill them”. I’m all for that.
But it can be chancy… well, for non-animal stuff. For animal stuff, organic is fine. But if you’re buying organic candy, for instance, that usually means awful candy. Because the people who care about AWFEL POISENS IN FUD (i.e., people who grow organic chocolate) are surprisingly often statistically congruent with people who don’t care what something tastes like.
So the rule for flavour is: Organic animals; non-biological plants.
I mean, unless you care people growing the plants dying from pesticides.
So then we simmer for twenty minutes.
So then we (i.e., I) remove the chicken bits and add butter to the sauce… and I added some more salt and pepper.
Oh look! Organic parsley… from Ethiopia.
A piece of chicken on the plate, and I serve it just with some boiled potatoes because the potatoes this time of year are just incredible.
So… what’s this going to taste like?
This is just incredible. The depth of flavour is indescribable. But I’ll try: It does taste like there’s vinegar in here, but it’s not a dominant flavour at all, somehow. The sauce just has such a complex, exciting flavour. And the chicken! It’s so moist! But so tender! It falls off the bone, but fantastically juicy. And with the sauce, the tomatoes and the parsley it’s mind-blowingly good.
I know I shouldn’t say this about something I cooked myself, but this is the best chicken dish I’ve ever had. But I’ve slagged off so many dishes in the Bistro Cooking book that I feel I can!
I ate and ate until I died, and I’m now literally dead.
So now it’s time for today’s book…
It’s another slim book by Geoff Dyer, who I covered earlier in this blog series, too. Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, a book about a movie about a journey to an impregnable castle. So in preparation, I watched the movie:
It’s… it’s OK. There’s some really fun scenes in there.
But let’s read the first three pages of this book together:
So it’s in Dyer’s usual effortlessly erudite style, and it really is about the movie — moreso than his Zona book, I’m guessing?
The book is full of informative footnotes.
But now there has to be a dessert.
And I’m doing a financier, which is apparently a … little cake? Or something? I’ve heard of the concept before, but I haven’t made it. I googled a bit, and it’s usually made with almond flour, but this one has hazelnut instead.
So it’s just these five ingredients.
I run the hazelnuts through the FUD machine; first through a grinding thing and then a choppy thing…
… and then through a sieve. And I get 90g of fine-grained hazelnut! (Let’s not mention the bits to the right that were too coarse and I threw away. TOO LATE.)
Then add the other two dry ingredients (sugar and wheat flour)…
And then it’s egg separatin’ time! Six of them, and since I had some spares in case I messed up any of them, I didn’t mess up any of them.
Well, you can never have too many eggses…
And then the egg whites just go into the dry ingredients? I would have guessed you were supposed to fluff em up, but I guess not?
Eww. That doesn’t look very tasty. I mean, it’s just egg whites with nuts, flour and sugar in it. It doesn’t taste very tasty either.
So then I melt a whole lot of butter, and chill it…
And pour it into the batter. Surely the batter can’t incorporate that much butter? It’s pretty wet already?
But… but… it does.
And now the batter suddenly has a wonderful flavour! The magic of butter.
OK, sure, financiers are supposed to be baked in square moulds (so that they look like gold bars), but I don’t have those, and the recipe says it’s fine to use muffin moulds.
IT”S FINE IT SAYS!
So into the oven…
And then bake for seven minutes, and then turn down the heat a bit…
I didn’t think they were gonna expand at all, really, since the egg whites weren’t fluffed up, but they did.
OK, then seven minutes at a slightly lower temperature…
A very pleasant scent is starting to emanate from these er cakes: It’s like… yeah, it’s like browned butter, but in a subtle way. It’s like the best bits of butter and … *sniff* wheat. Most pleasant.
And then seven minutes with the oven off (but in the oven). And then chillin’.
Wow! That’s really tasty. It’s full of hazelnutty goodness, and juicy and nice…
… but also fluffy! Wonderful. A kinda springy mouth feel, but with crispy outsides.
This is a good recipe. And very simple, too.
Yum yum nom nom I’ve eaten four of these just while typing.
I guess it reminds me slightly of Nutella? But without the chocolate? I guess that natural, but it’s not just the hazelnut — it’s all the butter. I mean, by weight, these little cakes are like 30% butter.
Back to the book… It’s a fun read. If you were to ask me “what would be the most horrible thing in the world”, then after saying something about “hunger” and “poverty” I’d totally go “No! Forget that crap! It’s reading somebody recap a movie! THE HORROR!”
And recap the movie Dyer does. We get all the plot twists and everything. But somehow it’s not horrible.
Because he makes fun of the movie — in every single scene, there’s something to smirk at. In lesser hands, this would be really annoying, too, but Dyer is endlessly inventive and … just, well, interesting.
The book recommends eating the little cakes with ice cream or whipped cream, and I tried both. They don’t really go that well with rum and raisin ice cream, but were wonderful with whipped cream.
Aha! Dyer explains how this book came to be: The publisher wanted a followup to Zona. (I’m reading between the pixels.)
Yeah, I had a friend in high school who was a MacLean fan, and I just didn’t get it: The writing is just unimaginably bad, even if the plots are sometimes entertaining…
This blog post is part of the Bistro
Cooking & Books series.