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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cook With Me: The Hen of Chocolat

In last Friday’s post, Adventures in Food Styling: Food Fantasies in Film, we viewed a few enticing photos from the Film, Chocolat starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. Well, let me tell you a secret that won't be a secret for much longer. I LOVE this film. I love it so much, both for its story qualities, its location, and its both actual and metaphoric depth. Based on these qualities as well, it is a film that shares well! So well in fact, that it is now a tradition at my C’est si Bon! Cooking School to offer a class with this menu around Valentine’s Day.

We start getting calls about the class as soon as the weather cools. 
A breathless voice whispers, "Is it Time For Chocolat?"
"Yes, almost," I say into the phone.

Oui, this really is worth every second in the kitchen. Every. Single. One.

Menu from the Chocolat Feast Class

Roasted Young Chicken with Orange and Sage – from Chocolat, the Film

This recipe is per young chicken (each weighing approx. 500gm)
In France these are called poussin.

1 small onion, chopped
3 sprigs of fresh sage leaves
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 small orange, chopped

Wash chicken thoroughly inside and out and pat dry with paper towels
Season inside and out with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Lift the skin over the breast carefully and anoint with the olive oil, then take the leaves from two sprigs of sage and slide these under the skin too. Place the remaining sage leaves and sprigs inside the cavity with the peeled onion and orange.

Place the chicken on a roasting rack (or sit on a trivet of vegetables) in a roasting tray and allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator, this will infuse the sage flavor. Truss the legs if preferred.

The next day preheat the oven to 375 f and pour 250ml of stock or water into the roasting tray and place in the pre-heated oven and roast as required, basting with juices every 20 minutes.

To ensure the chicken is cooked all the way through to the thigh joint without the breast drying out; cut the skin that connects the breast and leg and open up fully. This should be done 3/4's the way through the cooking time; it allows the heat to penetrate easier

The chicken is cooked when no blood or pinkiness is showing at the thigh joint.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes prior to serving: this allows the muscles to relax, it makes the meat more tender - simply cut in half and serve with the bittersweet demi-glace.

Three Hens Examining the Roasted Birds: Chef Dorette, Chef Renee, and Kitty Kinnin-The River 100.7 FM

Bittersweet Demi-Glace

The base of the demi-glace is Escoffier’s classic espagnole sauce. From his great rich traditional sauce comes other old masterpieces like bordelaise and chasseur. And the new classic, bittersweet demi-glace inspired by the film, Chocolat. Polish your ladle and get ready to plunge and pour ever so slowly over the roasted breast of chicken.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart brown stock
2 1/2 ounces salt pork or salt belly of pork
1/2 cup rough cut fennel
1/2 cup roughly diced carrots
1/2 cup roughly diced onions
1 sprig thyme
1 stem fresh sage leaves
2 small bay leaves
1/2 cup tomato puree
3 1/2 ounces red or white wine
60 gm bittersweet chocolate, grated

There is more than one way to do this, bien sur, but the most efficient method is to first get your mise en place in order. I.E. Chop your veggies and gather all remaining ingredients. Then and only then, melt the butter in a large, wide (2 qt.) saucepot over medium heat. Add the salt pork to the pan with the vegetables. Sauté till slightly brown, but not terribly. Pour off or skim off all but 2 t of fat. Save this flavored fat for another purpose if you so like. Add the flour to make a roux with the sautéed veggies, stirring well and frequently low heat until an even light brown color is obtained. The roux (and the vegetables of course!) should have an even light brown color and give off the scent of roasted nuts. Deglaze the pan with the wine, and stir up any browned bits. Add the thyme, sage, tomato paste, and stock, continuing to stir well as the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to gently simmer for about an hour. At this point you can strain it, because the flavors of the vegetables and the salt pork have worked their magic. Or you can leave them in for a rustic and exquisite peasant sauce. The preparation known as demi-glace is an espagnole that is simmered and often enriched with port or in this case, bittersweet chocolate to a further stage of reduction.

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