Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chicken Tante Celestine

This is my recipe for Tante (french for Aunt) Celestine's Chicken. I have adapted it from Margaret Fulton's Superb Restaurant Dishes published in 1982, and she was given this recipe from M Jean Delaunay, the demonstration chef of Marnier-Lapostolle of Paris.  Grand Marnier, an orange flavoured cognac, is the star ingredient here and the original liqueur was created in 1880 by Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle. A delicate blend of fine cognacs and distilled essence of tropical oranges with Marnier-Lapostolle's secret touch. Bitter orange flavours are enhanced by the cognac with nuances of orange marmalade and hazelnuts. The finish is long and harmonious... lovely tasting notes but I am not drinking it yet.. not until I have cooked with it.

This recipe was my tried and tested and well loved dinner party favorite. This was back in the 80's when dinner parties and perms were all the rage. I hadn't cooked it since then, and re-discovered the cookbook recently, nostalgia propelling me to make it again.

It's not a very PC recipe.  The first ingredient calls for chicken pieces with skin on.  Do you know how hard it is to find this?  I tried about 5 different places that sell chicken - everyone of them said that they don't sell chicken with skin on.  A few said, "oh yeah we get asked that all the time".  But I guess the fat police are monitoring them.  Maybe I need to find the black market of chicken that is not destined for the catwalk!  So, without the first ingredient, I had to improvise and get naked breasts .. free range of course.  I use breast meat as I like the whiteness of it and I can cook it very little and keep it moist.

I have to forewarn guests about this dish, just in case they have a heart condition.  I start with the prelude that it is a real french dish.  They nod knowingly that they understand and pop one of their angina pills in anticipation. It has a whole stick of butter, a few cups of cream and of course lots of alcohol.  But I do cheer up their heart surgeon and say its got fruit (apple) and nuts (almonds).  Apart from a little chicken stock, that's the total of the ingredients. 

I don't think it was a French peasant dish, or at least not an everyday peasant dish. I am yet to find the origins of this, maybe it was indeed a recipe devised by the makers of Grand Marnier after all?  A quick search of the net shows me that it is a known recipe, but not very well known.  It has been said that its a perfect date night meal - there is no onion or garlic. 

For my bachelor friend, who sampled this last night and said it would be a good dish to impress a girl, here is the recipe and my notes ..

6 chicken breasts (skin on if you have contacts with the black market)
Flour seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
100g of unsalted good butter
6 tablespoons of Grand Marnier
6 tablespoons of chicken stock
2 cups cream

Cut each breast into 3 even pieces.  Put into a bag with the flour and salt and pepper and shake until well coated.

Melt the butter in a heavy based (french if you have it) pan
In batches, fry the chicken pieces until they are browned.  Don't over crowd the pan as they will stew.

When all browned, put all pieces back into the pan and spoon over the Grand Marnier.  It will sizzle in the remaining butter and smell delicious.  I get a little carried away at this stage and often add a few more glugs.  Then do the same with the chicken stock, but leave out the extras.

Turn down to very low, cover tightly and simmer for 25 minutes or until tender.  Remove the chicken to a serving dish and keep warm.

Turn up the heat, add the cream and scrape up all the bits on the pan, stir and simmer until reduced.  Taste for seasoning.  Pour over chicken. 

Garnish with apples and almonds .. see below..

Apple and Almond Garnish - prepare this before you start.

6 granny smith apples
2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier
50 g butter
60g flaked almonds

Peal and core apples.  Cut into bite size pieces and put into a shallow baking dish in one layer.  Melt butter and pour over the apples.  Toss to coat evenly.  Bake in a preheated oven 180c for 15 minutes.  Keep warm.
Toast almonds in a hot dry pan.  Set aside.

Must be eaten with real French wine, however bad.  I serve this with boiled baby potatoes, green beans and steamed carrots.  Its very rich, so serve the vegies very plain. Unless you want an 80's nostalgic moment - serve the carrots with honey, butter and sesame seeds, the beans fried with bacon and onions and potatoes dauphinoise.

Serves 6 .. or 3 greedy people with leftovers the next day.  Also good the next day, heated, for a hangover lunch after all the bad French wine.

I want the serving dish in the picture, copper and very expensive.  Maybe I will charge every person I serve this dish to $20 and I can put this towards buying a copper dish.

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