Saturday, April 14, 2012


Some recipes for this famous old dish call for apples, many for mushrooms.  Craig Claiborne’s has neither.  What is indispensable in his and all the others is the lovely apple brandy of Normandy called Calvados.

Having acquired some highly aromatic Calvados for the tripes à la mode de Caën of last week, I set out in quest of something worthy of it, and found chicken à la Vallée d’Auge in The New York Times International Cook Book, of 1971.  Craig, cooking for eight people, roasts two whole chickens in butter at 400º, but for just Elizabeth and me I did it with two thighs (skin on, bone in) at 450º.  He adds chopped onion partway through the roasting, a good idea, which I forgot to do.

In the old-fashioned way, he cooks each of the companion vegetables separately in its own pot of boiling water—carrots, turnips, green beans, and peas.  (Craig almost always had his friend Henry Creel nearby to wash dishes, or somebody else, hence his profligate use of pots.)  Because green beans are out of season, I left them out, but we do have beautiful early carrots, turnips, and peas right now, and I thought that if I watched them carefully I could roast the root vegetables in a cast-iron frying pan with the chicken.  I had pinky-skinny carrots that only needed peeling, and I cut the turnips into half-inch chunks, and although I did have to remove them before the chicken was done, they came out just beautiful.  The roasting probably helped compensate for the sweetness I’d lost by forgetting the onions, and the vegetables also contributed handsomely to the fond in the bottom of the pan.  I cooked the peas in a little water and butter, covered, till they were good and cooked—I don’t hold with underdone peas.

Remove the chicken and the vegetables to a hot platter, season them, and keep them warm.  Pour most of the accumulated fat out of your roasting pan, and deglaze it with a couple of tablespoons of Calvados—you may need to add a little water or white wine to get up all the little crunchy bits, and of course you do want to get them all—and then add some cream and reduce it to whatever consistency you want the sauce to be.  The cream needn't be much, maybe a couple of tablespoons per person.  Correct the seasoning.

Because the chicken skin is nice and crisp, you may not want to turn it in the sauce at this point, or maybe you do.  The vegetables are so pretty that I think they look best served unsauced.

A last splash of Calvados adds real panache to the sauce—don’t boil off the alcohol, you want that tang.

The way I think this dish looks best, which Craig Claiborne would never have done, is with the chicken on top of the sauce and the vegetables mixed together next door, maybe with a wee bit of sauce under them too.  Craig specifically directs you to heat up the vegetables in the sauce and then pour the whole kaboodle over the chicken.


Pinotgraves said...

A white wine with some body and some aromatics seems like just the ticket!

Pinotgraves said...

Scallops not punched out of squid tubes-what a concept!