Chicken and Baked Cucumbers

14 Apr

Look who made herself a fabulous new apron! I need to get myself a new sewing machine though. Mine is from like 1832 and I sew faster than the machine wants me to and the thread kept breaking. Freaking annoying!

Look who thought he was helping. I caught him mid yawn.

So I bought “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” about a year ago after I watched Julie and Julia and was like “Oh I can do that!” And then I get the book and every recipe has cream in it and seems so intimidating. The reason why it seems intimidating is because she breaks down every single itty bitty step so it looks like this monstrous recipe when it really is not.

I’ve been baking a lot so I thought I’d challange myself with something different and make baked cucumbers. I like cucumbers and the idea of baking them seemed interesting.

I got myself a nice English cucumber. The recipe calls for six cucumbers, as it is supposed to serve six people, but since I was just serving myself I went for one. The important thing about baking cucumbers is you want to draw the moisture out before baking while still retaining the cucumber flavor. That’s why the sliced cucumbers take a little dip in a vinegar/sugar/salt bath before they cook. Julia says they can sit for 30 minutes to a few hours before baking. I let mine sit for a few hours, but I’d recommend having it only be 30 minutes, otherwise that vinegary flavor predominates your first bite and that aint nice.

After they’ve had their marinading time, you toss them with melted butter, green onions and basil and let them cook for about an hour, until as Julia puts it, the cucumbers “are tender but still have a suggestion of crispness and texture.”

Ok. What does that even mean? A “suggestion?” Does she mean not quite to the point of cucumber paste? I wouldn’t go straight to saying this dish was gross, but then again I wouldn’t really call it good. There are several variations on the recipe following the original that mostly involve mixing the cucumbers with cheese or cream and I say, go for it. Otherwise the vinegary flavor and odd mushniess is a tad too…something.

So I made poulet saute aux herbes de provence to go with the unusual side dish. It was one of the very few chicken recipes that did not have cream in it. What it means in plain English is chicken sauteed with herbs and garlic, egg yolk and butter sauce. And lemme be the first to tell you, that sauce is frickin awesome.

It starts off with you cooking the chicken and garlic slowly in butter. After the chicken is done, you take it out and dump some chicken broth in and turn the heat way up. Julia says to add wine, but since I didn’t have any I just went with broth. After the sauce has cooked down, you beat two egg yolks in a seperate saucepan. She calls for more wine here, but I just added in a splash of sherry, which I oddly did have. Then, as you’re whisking, you add in the cooked down chicken liquid to the eggs slowly.

Your arm will get tired. It almost wanted me to have a man around just for the purpose of doing the whisking. Oh and he could wash the dishes too.

The sauce starts off pretty yellow (obviously) but as you add more and more of the chicken sauce in, it turns this deep brownish yellow color. It doesn’t get super thick, but it has body. Julia said this sauce makes a type of hollandaise “as the herbal, buttery pan juices are beaten into egg yolks to make a thick and creamy liaison.”

Doesn’t that sound like something you just want to dive into or at least rub all over your body or something? Man, that lady knows how to turn a phrase.

Anyway, this sauce is great. I’ve never made a lot of sauces, especially not with egg yolks in it, but now I feel more confident to start experimenting with my own versions. And isn’t that Julia’s whole point? To give the average cook confidence to try something out of the box and see how easy it is?

Yes, I drenched the cucumbers with the sauce.

And I craved Taco Bell after. Sorry Julia.

Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence: for 4 to 6 people

Adapted from Julia Child

1 stick butter

2 1/2 to 3 lbs of cut up frying chicken dried in a towel

Italian Herb Seasoning

salt and pepper

3 cloves unpeeled garlic

2/3 to 1/2 cup chicken broth

2 egg yolks

splash of wine

Heat the butter until it is foaming, then turn the chicken pieces in it for 7 to 8 minutes. Julia says not to let them color more than a deep yellow (whatever that means). Mine got a little brown. Oh well. She also has you remove the white meat and have the dark meat cook longer by itself, but that seems like more effort than its worth. I also only had one piece of chicken so…

Season the meat and throw in the garlic. Cover and cook slowly for 8 to 9 minutes. Add the white meat (if you choose to take it out) and cook for about 15 minutes, turning and basting 2 to 3 times until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

When chicken is done, take out and keep warm.

Mash the garlic cloves in the pan with a spoon, and then remove the garlic peel. Add the broth and boil it down over high heat, spraping up all the goodies until the broth has been reduced by half.

Beat the egg yolks in a seperate saucepan until they are thick and sticky. Beat in your splash of wine. Then beat in the chicken liquid, a half-teaspoon at a time to make a thick and creamy sauce like a hollandaise. Pour over chicken and serve.

Cocombres Au Beurre: serves six people

6 cucumbers about 8 inches long

2 tb wine vinegar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp sugar

3 tb melted utter

1/2 tsp basil

3 to 4 tb minced green onion

pepper

Peel the cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into lengthwise strips and then into small pieces.

Toss the cucumbers in a bowl with the vinegar, salt and sugar. Let stand for at least 30 minutes or for several hours. Drain. Pat dry in a towel.

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Toss the cucumbers in a baking dish (no need to grease it) with the butter, herbs, onions and pepper. Set uncovered in the oven for about one hour (maybe less)tossing 2 to 3 times.

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