Go Gourmet with Julia Child
Pay tribute to the famous chef by making this easy chicken recipe.
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It's been 40 years since Julia Child first hit the airwaves as The French Chef, and thus created a new genre of television: the cooking show.
But while viewers flock to the Food Network, Child's original recipes still pack a lot of punch, even if those first shows seem quaint to the modern eye.
According to the press release that went out before the first episode, "Superb French gourmet cooking is easy and practical even for the busiest housewife when the engaging Julia Child shows how to use supermarket supplies."
"Here's our dear little old friend, the chicken!" Child announces cheerfully. "Serve it as a very tasty morsel - the supremes de volaille."
The title sounds intimidating, but in a style that would become her trademark, she reassures her viewers that great French cooking is actually very easy to accomplish.
Take the rice that will go with her chicken breasts: "I think a lot of people are afraid to cook rice because it gets sort of gummy, and that's mainly because nobody's told them some of the basic principles of how to cook it."
By braising the rice with onion and butter before adding chicken stock to cook it, she explains, the rice won't get gummy. "It's really one of the nicest ways of making rice, and you can see it isn't difficult at all."
Child goes on to saute onions, celery and carrot before adding the thin breasts over the top of them in a casserole. She covers the surface with wax paper and places it in the oven for just a few minutes, offering hints along the way.
"These cook in about five or six minutes, and that's why it makes such a lovely little meal," she says. To tell if the chicken is properly done, she instructs, just use your finger: "If it's resilient, they're done. If it's still squashy, like the raw breast, it isn't done. If it's hard, that means they're overdone, which is too bad."
She sets the casserole aside and moves over to the stove, stirs together some more stock, a little port and some cream, and voila! The wine sauce is done.
The wine sauce, which I made with Chardonnay because I didn't have any port, was magnificent over the chicken and sauteed vegetables. I mentally added this meal to my rotation of standbys that are impressive but easy to prepare.
Supremes de Volaille a Blanc (Chicken breasts poached in butter)
1/3 cup finely minced onions
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup raw, unwashed white rice
2 cups chicken stock or broth
salt and pepper
small herb bouquet: 2 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf and a sprig of thyme tied together with white string
4 thin boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
salt, pepper and lemon juice
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup diced onions
1/4 cup diced carrots
1/4 sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup white or brown stock
1/4 cup port, Madeira or dry white vermouth
1 cup heavy cream
salt, pepper, lemon juice
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
For the rice, cook the onions slowly in the butter until soft. Add the rice and stir over moderate heat for two to three minutes until the rice, which first turns translucent, becomes a milky white color. Then stir in the chicken stock, season lightly with salt and pepper, and add the herb bouquet. Stir briefly until simmer is reached, then cover closely and cook at a moderate simmer, about 18 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Do not stir the rice at all until this has happened. Then fluff lightly with a fork, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. This can be cooked ahead of time and reheated.
For the chicken: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the vegetables in the butter in a fireproof casserole before adding the chicken. Season the meat with salt, pepper and drops of lemon juice. Lay over vegetables in one layer in the casserole, making sure the chicken is coated in the butter. Cover the surface of the casserole with wax paper. Place it in the oven for six to seven minutes, or until the meat feels springy when you push on it. Remove it from the oven and set casserole aside while you prepare the sauce.
For the sauce: Pour stock and wine into a saucepan and boil rapidly until liquid is syrupy. Then pour in the cream and boil rapidly until lightly thickened. Season with salt, pepper and some lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the casserole and serve with the warm rice.
---From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. Knopf, 1961.
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