Friday, July 30, 2010

Booty: Celebratory Feasts

"It is only a woman's cookery, to be sure," [Stephen] said. "...but how very good it is! She must be a knowing old soul, with great experience... Perhaps something of a slut: your amiable slut makes the best of cooks."

Thus spoke Doctor Stephen Maturin in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novel The Surgeon's Mate. Stephen and Jack are prisoners in Paris eating the "very good" fare of the widow Lehideux whose "cookery" is across the street from the fortress of their incarceration. I won't go into further detail other than to say that Stephen's comment about sluts is particularly amusing given his own infatuation with Diana Villiers. At any rate, Madame's Poule au Pot (chicken in a pot) sounds far more delightful than your usual prison food.

Probably much like the widow, cooking is something I like to do. I won't call myself a "foodie" but I do enjoy the home cooked goodness of a dish right out of the oven. I'm particularly fond of the cooking of my Creole ancestors. The kind that would have shown up on the plates of rogues and corsairs like the Laffite brothers - particularly stout Pierre, whose quadroon mistress was spoken of as an excellent cook - and my own Beluche family. The famous Renato had seven brothers and sisters so a family meal, say Easter dinner or reveillon in old New Orleans, must have been quite the offering.

Since the celebration of Triple P's first anniversary will doubtless go on into the weekend (for instance, I've yet to raise a glass in toast!), it is also a sure bet that one of those Louisiana classics will come out of the pantry and make it's fragrant appearance on the table. While Poule au Pot is nice, I was thinking more along the lines of the master Leon Soniat, Jr's Chicken Creole. If you'd like to celebrate something of import to you as well, or just need a good recipe, may I suggest this warm but surprisingly summery dish that is perfect over fluffy white rice:

6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (note that the original recipe calls for a 3 to 4 pound frier cut into pieces - go for it if you are handy with a knife)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 16 oz. can tomatoes (or four-ish fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 tsp. salt
pinch of pepper/pinch of cayenne (both to taste)
1/2 tsp. powdered thyme
1 tbsp. minced parsley (fresh if possible)
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. flour
6 shallots, chopped
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine (I like a Pinot Blanc for summer)
2 10 1/2 oz. cans of beef consomme (you can use beef stock but the consomme gives a heartier flavor)

Wipe chicken with a clean, damp cloth. Saute in olive oil, turning to brown both sides. Remove the chicken and add onion, shallots and green pepper. Saute slowly approx. 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, pepper, salt, wine and consomme. Let simmer for approx. 10 minutes, then add chicken. Cover and slowly simmer for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Serve over rice, as noted. Soniat recommends a garnish of avocado slices and parsley sprigs which is a great treat, perfect for summer.

This is essentially a chicken stew but a few additions, like the cayenne pepper and beef consomme, make it distinctly Creole. Give it a try. I think you'll be quite delighted.

Happy Friday, Brethren. May all your celebrations be full of joy and the people you hold dear. And just in case you are wondering: I do tend to agree with the good doctor - a bit of a slut does make a better cook. I'll leave it at that.

Recipe courtesy of La Bouche Creole by Leon E. Soniat, Jr. Originally published 1981; current printing by Pelican Publishing, 2006. Picture via Avenue Inn B & B, New Orleans.


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Mmmmmm... Creole Chicken. I do so love your cooking, Pirate Queen. Sounds like we're going to have a good weekend (and I'll leave it at that)...


Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! Like all Scottish food is based on a dare, all Creole food is good. Period.