Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chicken, couscous, & tarts - oh my!

I am still really excited about French food since our recent visit to Paris, so I made a three-course dinner of delicious French dishes for our friends Tiffany and Nick. Every recipe is from Barefoot in Paris.

This is one that I've wanted to make for a super long time. I love garlic, so 40 cloves doesn't scare me, but even if you didn't like garlic, you would still like it. The garlic cooks for so long that it becomes super tender and mellow.

The recipe calls for two whole chickens, cut up into eight pieces. This means that I had a total of four chicken breasts, thighs, legs, and wings. I've never worked with bone-in chicken before, so I was a little nervous, but since the chicken was already cut up, it wasn't too bad. I just sauteed the pieces in batches with salt, pepper, olive oil, and butter.

Look at all that chicken!

After I sauteed it all, I sauteed the garlic, then added cream, cognac, and white wine. (This chicken is actually pretty boozy!) I finally got some cognac for this dinner, and I was very glad I did. Ina's always calling for it in her recipes, and it has a nice smell and flavor.

After you've started the sauce, you put the chicken back in and simmer the whole thing for about half an hour. This fully cooks the chicken and adds lots of flavor. All the wine in the sauce smelled almost like a coq au vin to me!

The final product was a delicious mix of browned chicken, melt-in-your-mouth garlic, and a wonderful garlic sauce. Mmm. I'd say that this was a very easy recipe, and not very labor intensive at all, as long as you buy the cloves prepared. (Usually I buy garlic in bulbs, but for a recipe with 40 cloves I will make an exception.) The only thing to remember with this one is that it takes time, but that is what makes the garlic so delicious.

Ina recommends this dish to complement the chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. It was very easy, although sort of the opposite of the chicken - it is more labor intensive to cut the vegetables, but takes less time to cook.

First, you cut up tons of veggies: butternut squash, onion, zucchini, and carrots. You end up with about 8 cups.

Awesome. I diced them in advance so it would be really easy to whip up later. When you are ready to do the couscous, you roast the veggies in olive oil, pepper, and salt. You leave them in for about half an hour, turning once. At the end, they are really soft.

While they are roasting, you make the liquid for the couscous, which is basically chicken stock, salt, and cumin. After you heat up the liquid, you place the veggies and cousous in a bowl and pour the liquid over it. Mix and let sit for 15 minutes!

And here's the whole thing together - the chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and the Moroccan couscous.

I was really happy with how both turned out. The garlic sauteed for so long that it literally melted and fell apart in your mouth. And, the garlic sauce for the chicken was really good poured over the couscous. I could almost see making the chicken's sauce just for the couscous, or maybe over spaghetti.

Mmm. Another win for Ina.

Another one I've wanted to make for a long time is strawberry tarts. We ate amazing raspberry tarts in Paris and I have been aching to try them at home.

First, the pastry dough. This definitely takes some preparing, because you not only need cold butter and Crisco, but also cold dry ingredients. It makes sense, because I know the butter has to stay cold, but it meant putting a bowl of flour, sugar, and salt in the freezer. Weird.

Then you chill the dough some more and roll it out into your tart pans. I finally got to christen my baby tart pans!

To make sure the dough stays in a nice tart shell form, you put some rice inside the tart pan, in some aluminum, of course. What can I say - pastry dough is fussy.

Oh, and if the pastry dough is fussy, the pastry cream is even fussier. You blend some egg yolks and sugar, then add scalded milk and blend some more. Then you heat the mixture and mix constantly with a wooden spoon until about 7 minutes in, when it begins to curdle slightly, at which point you switch to a whisk and mix more vigorously. Yikes! It turned out fine, though, and I am more than up to the challenge.

Then fill the pastry shells with the cream, and top with strawberries and apricot jelly:

Aigh! So cute. This definitely makes the cut of "cutest dishes I've ever made." And it was tasty, too! I've got enough pasty cream left over to make another batch of pastries tomorrow for my photo party with my Europe travel buddies, so I'm sure they'll be happy.

A great meal designed by Ina Garten and executed by moi!

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