Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Felicity's Chicken the French Way

Disappointing sauce, but overall, not a bad meal!

Felicity is probably the character I probably have the most cookbooks and recipe ideas for, so when it came down to actually picking something, I sort of had a bit of an over saturation issue. I couldn't decide what we should make, or where I should even start looking for something, really, which made deciding what I should pick to feature colonial America kind of difficult.

Eventually, we decided to go online. My cousin and I had discovered a blog called History is Served, which is managed by Colonial Williamsburg Historic Foodways. Historic Foodways is a department at Williamsburg that does all the research on 18th century food that is then used in the taverns and other shops in Williamsburg. History is Served posts recipes for desserts, appetizers, side dishes, entrees and other foods so that you can cook the way an 18th century cook would in the comfort of your own home. The recipes are adapted from real historical recipes (which are posted with the modern one) so that you don't need to have a kitchen just like Felicity's to prepare the dishes.

I'd already made their Sugar Cakes, which were delicious, so I thought we'd give something else a try here. Originally, I wanted to try the onion pie recipe, but it seemed like that might be a better idea for when more people were going to be over the house to help us eat it, so eventually, we decided to give their recipe for "Chicken the French Way" a shot.

Seems easy enough, right?

Now, I want to say upfront that I enjoyed this dish, but I didn't really enjoy cooking it. I don't know if it was just because I was sort of having a lousy day or if I just wasn't really in the mood to cook, but I felt very blah during the entire process.

The first thing we had to do was put the chicken in a pan, sprinkle breadcrumbs and parsley over it, and brown it in the pan. To be honest, I have no idea what the breadcrumbs actually added to the overall dish. It wasn't like breading, and after throwing them on the chicken, I almost completely forgot they'd even been included in the recipe.

Next, while the chicken browned on the stove, we got the wet ingredients ready. I'm pretty sure I've chopped an onion before, and obviously I know they're supposed to make your eyes water, but I seriously felt like I'd been blasted with tear gas the entire time I was chopping this one. My eyes are still sore, and it's been about an hour and a half since I chopped it.

We left it on the stove for about half an hour to cook, and it definitely smelled good while it was cooking, not that you can really go wrong with chicken in white wine, chicken stock, lemon juice and onions.

Next came the most baffling part of the process: making the sauce. My mom and I were both assuming that the sauce would thicken to the point of being like a gravy, and originally, my mom really wanted to use the cornstarch instead of the egg yolks the recipe called for because she thought it sounded weird. We put in the cornstarch as instructed and waited and whisked. And waited and whisked.

And nothing happened. So, we decided to try it with the egg yolks. I quickly cracked three, separated the yolks, prepared them as instructed, and added them to the sauce. And whisked. And waited. And whisked. And waited.

Long story short (or short story long), it never really thickened even with the extra thickening ingredient, and was basically just watery broth spooned over the chicken when all was said and done. It wasn't terrible, but it was a bit of a disappointment, and I'm still a little confused if the sauce is supposed to be like this, or if we just did something wrong or were too impatient to eat dinner and gave up too quickly. The recipe was a little vague on this point, so I guess we'll just have to try it again sometime.

Overall, it definitely wasn't a bad recipe to make, but I think my mom put it a good way: this recipe seemed like it needed more work than it was ultimately worth. This isn't to say it was a bad dish, but it did require a bit of work, and definitely wasn't a favorite like the brisket we made last week, or the skillet cookie we made earlier. The chicken was moist and flavorful, and the broth might make an interesting soup with or without the thickening agent, so it's definitely a recipe to consider if you're in the mood for that sort of thing. Next time we make it, my mom also thought we should add raisins instead of grapes, because no one could really tell they were even really in it. There's definitely room for experimentation!

Until next time!

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