Parsnip Puree: boiled then pureed with butter. Simple and delicious.

Pommes Sautees au Lard: fry up enough bacon – or in this case pancetta, and this was possibly a mistake – to render a deep layer of fat, then fry the potatoes in it. Had I cooked the potatoes for longer the pancetta would have blackened, but the potato didn’t cook quite enough. perhaps blanching the potato first would help, or maybe a wider pan and thinner slices. Still, delicious.

This was a deliciously thick, rich stew. The recipe calls for lardons, which are thick rectangular chunks of bacon. I have yet to find a source of chunks of regular bacon in the right size, so for this recipe used pancetta. This is sizzled until it has rendered its fat. The fat is discarded, which at the time seemed like tipping out flavour, but it turns out that a lot of fat enters this recipe, so it requires a thorough skimming during the cooking to avoid a thick layer of orange gunk on the surface when served.

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In a nutshell:
Thoroughly brown the lamb, remove and sizzle the lardons until they have rendered their fat. Discard fat, remove lardons. Add onions and celery, sautee then add tomato paste, followed shortly after by Tblsp flour. Stir, then add glass of wine. Scrape up the fond. Add the meat + stock, bouquet garni, carrots, garlic back in and simmer. Add rounded chunks[time consuming! ] of potato at the end.

Next time I will get it done more authentically and on the cheap with lamb necks [instead of shoulder – I think],  and normal bacon.

Roast chicken.
I have not roasted that many chickens. Usually I am cooking for one.. and why not stick to what I am good at? Lentils. I will make the best damn lentil and bean stews there are, and off the top of my head too.. Recipes are for the faint of heart.. for followers.
I digress. Chicken scared me, and I figured I would poison myself.

I started with a perfectly good quality organic bird, made a series of mistakes, learnt a lot in a short space of time, and wound up with a roast chicken that was good looking, delicious, and despite my suspicions to the contrary, proved not to induce Campylobacter. The end result though, is that there is a lot of room for improvement. I might try to master the oven-bag before coming back to this particular recipe.

The first mistake was to neither follow the instructions on seating the bird, nor to truss it. To be fair, Anthonys instructions in this instance are an entertaining read, but fail to get the point across. They go something like: “imagine you are on the ground with your feet and hands in the air, put the chicken like this, fold its knees up, and cut a hole below the ankles, and shove the legs in there.”
This is fine on paper.. So it went through the recipe legs akimbo. I’ve no idea what sort of effect this had on the recipe but it wasnt a great start.

After cleaning, then the above, then salt and peppering, it was time to shove ludicrous amounts of herb butter (softened butter with herbs mixed into it) under the chicken skin. I wouldnt have thought of this on my own.. Neither did Anthony though. Look up ‘Julia Child roast chicken’ on youtube. And she would have gotten it from the french old school. But still.. Brilliant!

Skip a few steps and we are roasting the bird – for 30mins at 190C, then another 25 at 230C. This doesn’t seem like long enough to me. Anthony advocates the “She’ll be right, a little bit of pink won’t hurt you” line of thinking. Frankly I’m not sold. See the evidence. The bird sure is pink in the middle.

After the chook is out of the oven I get schooled in making the most delicious gravy ever. There was half an onion and some wine in the tray when it was roasting, and the half-lemon in the cavity has rendered some fragrant juice into the mix. Over the element pour in more wine and scrape away at the roasted-on goodness. Then mix in several tablespoons of butter, some parsley, and presto.. Not a trace of corn flour!

There is a LOT of butter and MANY onions in this soup. There are no passengers. Everything is flavour. My friend Dan was about as I peeled the onions, halved them, and began slicing them. It wasn’t until I had filled a large salad bowl with slices that he commented on the quantity of them. I see his point though. I have never seen such a volume of prepared onions. Its not all onions though. The ingredients read like an all star lineup: onions, butter, bacon, chicken stock, port, balsamic vinegar, croutons, Gruyere. The end result is candy. Meat candy. Mmmm..

I chose this dish for its relative simplicity and availability of ingredients. I roughly halved the ingredients (except for the stock, wine and butter) as I didnt have that many mouths to feed.

Overall the dish took around an hour and a half to make, putting it in the realm of appropriate apres work cooking and eating.

The recipe starts with olive oil then butter. Until now I have used either one or the other. Usually only olive oil, due to my perception of the relative health benefits, however this argument is beginning to make less sense in my mind.

I bumped up the pinch of cayenne to a dash as I figured noone was watching.  mmm.. hot.

The chicken is to be browned on the skin side, but not the other. The reason for this is not explained. I was working with whole chicken legs, that I separated into drumsticks and the upper leg. I stuck to the instructions and cooked these on one side only, despite having an even coating of skin all over.

The end result is a really delicious saucy chicken dish. I have no idea what the recommended accompaniment rice pilaf is, so I omitted it and just had twice as much Poulet Basquaise. yum!

Two days break from the stove-top and I got back into it. I spent an evening focused entirely on this, and the next day served it up for friends.

When I asked my butcher for ‘chicken-steak’ he gave me a fully blank look. I can only presume this is an American term. I then rephrased and requested shoulder. He proceeded to give me a run-down of  the different cuts from this part of a beast. Regrettably I have forgotten the name of the cut he recommended, but he described it as being back a bit from the shoulder, sortof around to the side a bit..
I have a bit to learn here.

A generous addition of demi pumped this dish full of flavour – not that it would have been lacking otherwise. The recipe calls for Red Burgundy. I researched replacements and came up with a good Pinot Noir.

Hard to tell when it is finished, but the recipe contains enough thinly sliced onion to fill my standard sized dutch oven. The next bit is magic.. After the browned meat is removed, the onions are added and sauteed in the fond (fried on meat juice) until brown. At this stage flour is sprinkled on and they become a thick unit of delicious. When the red wine is added to this it becomes clear how delicious the dish is going to be.

Next time I make this I will make the bits of meat slightly chunkier, the same goes for the carrots.

Last Sunday at 7.45am I rolled out of bed and into the kitchen. I unloaded and rinsed a $2 bag of bones, patted them dry, smeared on tomato paste, sprinkled flour and threw them in the oven,  later adding another tray with onions, carrots and celery.  After an hours cooking and turning the bones they looked like a million bucks. I restrained myself from going at them then and there for a full on gnaw.

It took my best Tetris skills to arrange the bones and fill the gaps in with veges to just fit them all in my biggest pot. I filled the pot to the brim with cold water and let it do its thing. It was around this time I realised our biggest pot is rubbish for this task as the handles are bolted to the pot and the stew leaks out here. Luckily as the stock thickened these holes began to clog, and the problem diminished.

The recipe calls for the pot to simmer for 8-10 hours. At about 7 hours I realised I would have to stop in order to finish the demi-glace in one day. the solids were put aside(read: gnawed on) and the stock sieved, strained and some put aside. The rest earmarked for the demi-glace. At this stage around half a bottle of wine and some chopped shallots were getting acquainted in the wonderful cast iron of the Le Creuset.

Later the stock was added back in and the remaining mixture reduced, stirred, reduced.. for another 4 hours.

It took over 12 hours in total, filled the house with warmth and delicious smells and provided me with rich stock and demi-glace for dishes to come.