Sunday, February 28, 2010

Julia Childs' Poulet au Porto

As I've previously posted, my Mom and I made a deal that each month we would both attempt to make the same recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French cooking. Since our first Julia recipe,  Boeuf Bourguignon, monopolized an entire day, I decided to do a little research on the internet hoping that I could find some Julia recipes that were less time consuming. I found an article where Nora Ephron, the director of the movie Julie and Julia, shared her favorite recipes from the book. One was Poulet au Porto, which translates to chicken in wine. I got out my cookbook and browsed over the recipe and decided that with the exception of having to roast an entire chicken this one didn't look too bad! I added this dish to my 30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30 list. I checked with Mom and she agreed to try to "master" this dish in February with me. 

Mom made her Poulet au Porta last week and cheated a little. :) She used chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken and cooked them in her favorite appliance the Rocket Grill to speed up the process. One of the coolest things about this recipe is that you pour cognac over the chicken and set it on fire! My mom enlisted the help of my Dad for this part. The end product of Mom's Poulet au Porto was a winner. My Dad and brother, Brian, got to enjoy this dish and they both loved it. Mom said she will definitely be making this recipe again, which proves this recipe was a true success because I don't think she can say the same about the Boeuf Bourguignon! Here are some pictures of my Mom's Poulet au Porto, which she served with Butternut Squash Risotto:

My Poulet au Porto turned out great as well. I bought an organic chicken that was already in pieces, so roasted it in the oven that way with some olive oil. The sauce for this dish is a multi-stepped, and each step is delicious! The hubby and I tasted it as it progressed. The one thing I am not sure we did correctly was flaming the cognac. It didn't flame very much for us and unfortunately that resulted in a very strong cognac taste. I actually am not sure I would even use the cognac if I do it again  because it overpowered the creamy mushroom taste that I loved about the sauce as I taste tested it. Like Mom, I served my Poulet au Porto with risotto. Next time I might try potatoes on the side. I do think there will be a next time with this dish...the mushroom cream sauce, minus the cognac, is heavenly. 

Julia Childs' Poulet au Porto
Chicken, cream, and mushrooms occur again and again, as it one of the great combinations. This perfectly delicious recipe is not difficult, but it cannot be prepared ahead of time or the chicken will lose its fresh and juicy quality. The chicken is roasted, then carved, flamed in cognac, and allowed to steep for several minutes with the cream, mushrooms, and port wine. Its the kind of dish to do when you are entertaining a few good, food-loving friends whom you can receive in your kitchen..
A 3 lb chicken
1 pound fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup water
1/2 tablespoon of butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 1 tablespoon whipping cream
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup medium-dry port wine
1/4 cup cognac 
Roast the chicken at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours and be sure not to over cook it. Meanwhile trim and wash the mushrooms. Quarter them if large, leave them whole if small. Bring the water to boil with the butter, lemon, and salt in a 2 1/2 quart saucepan. Toss in the mushrooms, cover, and boil slowly for 8 minutes. Pour out the cooking liquid and reserve.
Blend 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cream. Pour the 1 cup of cream and the cornstarch mixture into the mushrooms. Simmer for 2 minutes. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper and set aside.
When the chicken is done, remove it to a carving board and let it rest at room temperature while completing the sauce.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the roasting pan. Using a new saucepan, stir in shallots and cook slowly for 1 minute. Add the port and the mushroom juice and boil down rapidly, scraping up coagulated roasting juices, until liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the mushrooms and cream and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, allow the liquid to thicken slightly. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper and add lemon juice to taste.
Smear the inside of a fireproof casserole or chafing dish with butter. Rapidly carve the chicken into serving pieces. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and arrange in the casserole dish.
Set over moderate heat until you hear the chicken begin to sizzle. Then pour the cognac over it. Avert your face, and ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole slowly until the flames have subsided. Then pour in the mushroom mixture, tilting the casserole and basting the chicken. Cover and steep for 5 minutes without allowing the sauce to boil. Serve. 

Ashley's note: Then enjoy the deliciousness, drink some wine, and relax (whew!) after a job well done. 

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