Day 25 of 31 days of pumpkin and we return to the fondue concept and get it right, with a little help from Ruth Reichl, God Bless her. She was interviewed by Terry Gross for Fresh Air on NPR on October 14, 2009. I was deep into this pumpkin project and in the kitchen, in fact, when I heard Ruth Reichl start to describe this mouth-watering concoction. I immediately added it to the cue and now the day has finally come when I get to taste it and share my version of her recipe with you.
If you want to hear the exact moment that Ruth describes this dish in her interview, advance to 9:13 when you click on the NPR audio link.
In the US, when you exit the highway for a rest and a bite to eat, you choose from among several fast food restaurants and maybe an Applebees. In France last month, when we exited the A10 to placate a crying toddler during a drive from Paris to the Loîre Valley, we rolled into a quiet, 12th century stone village named Rochefort-en-Yvelines. It was the kind of village that is shuttered and empty at noon on a Tuesday because everyone is home for lunch. But a brief walk up a cobblestone side street yielded a delightful scene. There, behind a courtyard wall were tables and tables of people enjoying lunch outside. We had stumbled upon the Brigandville Restaurant at the base of L’église Saint-Gilles-et-de-l’Assomption, a church built in the 11th and 12th centuries.
At this wonderful little spot (described so well in a blog post by Chocolat et Lavande here), my husband and I both ordered the Steak au Poivre, but it was the dish I ordered for my son that was truly memorable. It was chicken in a creamy tarragon, mushroom and Gruyére sauce served over wild rice pilaf. I’m pretty sure I ate more it than he did, the poor guy. Since returning home, I’ve wanted to recreate this amazing dish. It’s taken me awhile because I have trouble splurging on Gruyère cheese, which is $18/lb at our market, and I forget to buy fresh tarragon. But everything came together this weekend, so here it is.
I used a recipe that I found on the Food & Wine website as the basis for the sauce. Several differences evolved as I tweaked it. They use morels and cremini mushrooms, whereas, I just used regular white mushrooms. I used boneless, skinless thighs instead of chicken breasts. And, the Food & Wine recipe does not call for Gruyère, like mine does.
1 8 oz package of white mushrooms (I used pre-sliced)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8-10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1. Heat a large, deep sautée pan over medium high heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. They should sizzle right away. Use tongs to open up the thighs and flatten them out. Sautée for about 4 minutes each side. Remove them from pan to a plate.
2. Add butter and mushrooms to the pan and sautée mushrooms until they just start to release their liquid, about 4 minutes.
3. Add white wine and simmer until reduced to just a couple of tablespoons, about 3 minutes.
4. Add chicken stock and simmer until reduced by 2/3, about 6 minutes.
5. Add the heavy cream and the tarragon and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 4 minutes. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and blend well. Add the grated Gruyère and stir constantly until melted and blended in. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Return chicken to the pan. (While the chicken was sitting, it sweat out a lot of juices. I did not add these back into the sauce because I felt I had gotten the balance of sauce flavors just right, but I imagine you could add that juice back in to good effect). Stir to coat chicken and simmer until heated through, about 3 minutes.