Saturday, December 16, 2006

Un peu de la belle France dans le Bush du Berger

This week, our families began to arrive in London for the holidays. The first bunch came into Gatwick the other day and we have already paraded them around, introducing them to the culinary highlights of our neighborhood: the Middle Eastern market down the street with the best olives in the city, displayed in huge plastic tubs and flavored with peppers, garlic and lemons; the meat shops where the butchers sling giant half-carcasses of lamb over their shoulders and stroll down the street; and the little Lebanese shop across the road that sells freshly roasted almonds and pistachios out of huge bins as well as every conceivable variety of those tiny honey-soaked nut pastries whose intense, grainy sweetness is a delicious and necessary foil to the tongue-tingling bitterness of Arabic coffee. But today, rather than a tagine or tabbouli, these markets provided all the necessary components of a taste-of-France menu inspired both by our recent travels and by the Eastern Mediterranean ingredients in which the Uxbridge Road abounds. We celebrated our families' safe travels and the beginning of our holiday revels with this warming country French stew and an oh-so-Parisian tarte Tatin.

Chicken Provencale

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 4-5 lb chicken, cut into pieces
20 pearl onions, peeled*
1 lb baby bella mushrooms, halved
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon quatre epices
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
2 long strips lemon peel, cut with vegetable peeler
1/2 cup good-quality green olives, pitted
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Sprinkle chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper. When oil is hot but not smoking, add chicken and cook until browned on all sides, working in batches if necessary. Remove chicken to a plate, maintaining the heat.

Add onions, spice mixture and red pepper and cook until onions are browned and beginning to be tender. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes longer, then add garlic and stir for another minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken back into pot.

Add tomatoes, wine, lemon peel and olives. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer until chicken is cooked through and liquid is reduced, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over rice or mashed potatoes. This stew is even better the next day.

Serves 4.

*The easiest way to peel pearl onions is to drop them into boiling water for a minute, which allows you to slip their skins off easily.

Tarte Tatin
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2001

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
7 to 9 Braeburn apples, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll pastry sheet and cut out a round to fit skillet; transfer to a baking sheet and chill.

Spread butter thickly on bottom and side of well-seasoned iron skillet and pour sugar evenly over bottom. Arrange as many apples as will fit vertically on sugar, packing them tightly in concentric circles.

Cook apples over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until juices are deep golden and bubbling, 18 - 25 minutes.

Put skillet in middle of oven; bake 20 minutes, then remove from oven and lay pastry round over apples.

Bake tart until pastry is browned, 20 - 25 minutes. Transfer skillet to a rack and cool at least 10 minutes.

Just before serving, place a platter over skillet and invert tart onto it.

Serves 8; leftovers make an excellent breakfast.

Exploring Shepherd's Bush by Bus

No comments: