These days it seems as though every new, exciting chef or recipe book to emerge involves some form of high culinary, molecular gastronomy, vacuum cooking techniques more suited to a chemistry lab then a kitchen…traditional home cooked dishes with simple ingredients seem to have lost their appeal. However, if you’re anything like me, the thought of snail porridge may seem like a great way to show off but I’m not sure how many of my friends would thank me for serving it up along with bacon-and-egg ice cream at a dinner party. When I’m cooking for myself or friends I want to cook simple, easy to prepare dishes using ingredients which don’t require test tubes and goggles but rather use readily available ingredients (preferably the local supermarket) and easy to follow recipes with great results.
In The French Brasserie Cookbook, Daniel Galmiche, (Executive Chef at The Vineyard at Stockcross) has put together 100 classic brasserie recipes with a modern, Mediterranean twist. Although Daniel is not a household name, you may recognise him as he is a regular on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen and has been dubbed ‘gastronomy’s best kept secret.’ Daniel trained under Michel Roux and is a true champion of French food and cookery. He is passionate about making home cooking approachable without the hassle of fancy ingredients. Indeed, even Heston Blumenthal himself praises Daniel for his ‘practical, unfussy, easy to use and inspiring recipes.’
All the recipes are based on the classic principles that characterise brasserie cooking: regional recipes, local ingredients and homely, comforting flavours. The book includes recipes for starters, mains, side dishes, and desserts such as aromatic Roast Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Lavender, Wild Mushroom and Herb Risotto and Tarte Tartin with Rosemary and Toasted Almonds. My favourite was the Chicken Casserole in Red Wine – a great alternative to the classic Sunday Roast.
Chicken casserole in Red Wine
- 2-3 tbsp flour, for dusting
- 1 large chicken, about 1.5kg/3lbs 5oz, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 30g/1oz pancetta
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 garlic gloves, unpeeled and crushed with the flat edge of a knife
- 350ml/12fl oz/ scant 1½ cups Burgundy red wine, or your choice of regional red table wine
- 600ml/21fl oz/scant 2½ cups Chicken Stock
- 55g/2oz butter, diced
- 1 handful of tarragon, leaves only, or 3-4 thyme sprigs
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Tagliatelle, cooked, to serve (optional)
Sprinkle the flour into a flat dish, season with salt and pepper and toss the chicken through the flour until it is lightly coated, then set aside. (The flour will help the sauce thicken while it’s cooking.) Heat the oil in a cast iron or heavy-based casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the shallot, pancetta, carrots and garlic and cook for five minutes, until softened but not coloured, then remove from the pan and set aside.
Put the chicken in the casserole dish and cook over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, turning as necessary, until it has an even colour all round. Add the wine and cook for 10-12 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the stock and the shallot mixture and bring to the boil over a high heat. Skim the surface to remove any fat, then reduce the heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the casserole dish and set aside. Heat the cooking liquid, uncovered, over a medium heat for about 12-15 minutes until it reduces and turns into a lovely, light shiny syrup. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted and combined. Put the chicken back in the dish and add the tarragon, keeping aside a few sprigs to sprinkle on top. Serve immediately, with fresh tagliatelle, if liked.