WND – Chicken with a side of nostalgiaMarch 20, 2008
All hail the mighty power of the internet.
When I was in high school I discovered the greatest cooking show ever filmed. It is a tragedy of Greek proportions that it has never been released on DVD. However, youtube and google came through for me and I recently found a few clips of the show online.
Gratin de Fruits de Mer
Cuisses de Grenouilles
Magret aux Pruneaux
(fair warning, it was a French show but I think they’re worth watching even if you don’t speak French, although possibly slightly less amusing)
Sadly, no show on the Food Network will ever start with the host cheerfully informing you that the first thing you do with your live eels is kill them, and then proceed to kill and skin the eels on air. La Cuisine des Mousquetaires, on the other hand, started a lot of shows this way.
I’m not sure how we came across this show, but sometime in late high school we happened on it and were enthralled. And by we, I mean my entire family; even my father who usually reads the newspaper when my mother and I watch food tv will sit down to watch reruns with us. In searching for clips on youtube I came across a number of different spoofs of the show so I feel safe in assuming that it isn’t just us who found La Cuisine des Mousquetaires bemusingly entertaining.
The show was built around Maite Ordonez and her demonstrations of classic French country cuisine. She certainly looked the part. She had hands the sides of meat cleavers, and the ability to crush garlic with the side of her palm. The only thing I ever saw her balk at eating was corn, which she dismissed as something that you fed to animals and Americans*.
Her co-host, Micheline Banzet, was there presumably to provide banter and explain what Maite was doing. She was the diametric opposite of Maite, and frequently looked horrified as Maite dismembered and gutted various animals. The show was often, I suspect unintentionally, hilarious just because of the play between the two personalities. You always got the impression that they were baffled by each other.
This is only vaguely relevant to dinner this week. I did not personally kill, eviscerate or dismember the chicken. But, this is a meal we made a lot when I was in high school, and thinking about it reminded me of watching La Cuisine des Mousquetaires. Plus it made more sense than talking about how my father doesn’t actually like apricot jam all that much, or that by the time I graduated from high school I could recite all of the dialogue from “Hunt for Red October” including the Russian.
The one is actually relevant to dinner**. The other is relevant only in the way that it’s always useful to know that not everything in a nuclear submarine reacts well to bullets, and that when in doubt you should suspect the cook of sabotage.
* In fairness to Maite, sweet corn does not grow in Europe (at least not commercially) so what Europeans know as corn really is mostly used for animal fodder or for industrial applications. The only place you find sweet corn in Europe is in cans, and the British have developed a disturbing tendency to use it in the strangest places, like on top of pizza.
** The jar of apricot jam on the door of the fridge was the center of a vicious cycle when I was in high school. My father believes in finishing things in the fridge even when he doesn’t like them because he doesn’t want them to go to waste. This is admirable, except that my mother could never impress on him that the leftover apricot jam wasn’t going to waste, that it would be used for a future dinner and that all he was doing by dutifully eating it was making it necessary for her to buy more the next time she wanted to make this recipe, which in turn created leftover apricot jam . . . .
Apricot & Prune Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Apricot & Prune Stuffed Chicken Breasts
The original recipe is for a stuffed pork loin, but I balk at buying enough pork loin to feed 6-8 people, so I use chicken breasts. Honestly, I think the flavors work a little better with pork, but the chicken breasts are more practical for a weeknight dinner.
3 lb chicken breasts
Butterfly the chicken. Halve the apricots & prunes and arrange them on half of the chicken breast (alternating between the two). Fold the other side over and tie. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Peel and cut the apples and onions into eighths. Place them on a baking sheet, and arrange the chicken breasts over them.
Coat the chicken breasts with some of the sauce. Roast at 375 for 35-40 minutes, basting with sauce once or twice.
To serve, slice the chicken breasts and arrange on a platter with the apples and onions. Serve the extra sauce on the side.
3/4 cup apricot jam
6 Tbsp mustard
6 Tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp salt
9 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a pan and melt together. Stir vigorously (or whisk) to combine. Allow to come to a simmer and cook until the sugar has dissolved.
If you have leftovers you can chop up the chicken and mix it with plain rice and use it to stuff (blanched) peppers (onions would probably work too). Top with some breadcrumbs, and bake in a 350 oven until the filling is hot and the top has become crispy, about 25-30 minutes.
(serves 6 as a side dish)
2 cups Arborio rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
½ cup white wine
½ cup parmesan cheese
Bring the chicken stock and water to a simmer in a pot.
In a pan saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add 3 cups of the stock/water and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stock has absorbed and the bottom of the pan is dry when the rice is pulled back with a spoon.
Add the white wine and cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of the stock/water at a time, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed. Cook until rice is creamy but still somewhat firm in center (add more water in 1/2 cup increments if stock/water mixture runs out), about 10-15 minutes longer.
Add the zest and juice of a lemon, and the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine, and serve.