Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chicken Bonne Femme

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Rachael Ray yammering on about Scallops Bonne Femme, an earthy and rich dish that's served family-style in a hefty cast-iron skillet. Though I often think her recipes have too many things going on in them, I have to say this one caught my eye and my tastebuds. Yet, because I live in a house of people who turn their nose up at oysters, scallops and pretty much anything else that's fun (I can't help it because I grew up on the Gulf Coast and they didn't), I wondered if there was a way to vary that dish with a more, shall we say, inoffensive ingredient like chicken for the same effect.

Fortunately for me, my mother gave me the Galatoire's Cookbook for Christmas this past year. It was a selfish act, no doubt. Why? She marked the time-honored eatery's recipe for her favorite dish, crabmeat au gratin, and then made a point of noting that she marked that dish in the note she scribbled to me in the front of the book (Do you think the woman wants me to make her some crabmeat au gratin? Hmm...hard to say). But I bring this up because the cookbook has a great recipe for Chicken Bonne Femme that I thought I'd share with you. It's not only a perfect family-style meal that serves four, but a hearty-yet-elegant meal you can dish out for less than $15.

You read me right: In the spirit of Rachael Ray I am starting the new culinary sensation: "Feast for Under Fifteen." Amazing what sort of epiphanies you can have during that afternoon cup of French Roast.

At any rate, I've altered the recipe somewhat because after taking a few test runs of the cookbook, I've discovered that the authors either assumed the home chef was cooking with an industrial strength oven, or cooking with a team of sous chefs at their disposal, or meth-ed out on some sort of crack rock that would enable them to pull this stuff together faster than the speed of light.

Me, I believe we can't have that sort of madness in this space, especially not for something that amounts to comfort food. I believe we need to take our time and enjoy what we cook.

But before we do, here's a shopping list:

1/2 pound of sliced bacon

1 fryer chicken cut into eight pieces (Publix, for example, sells these already cut up for about $7 usually)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Vegetable oil, for frying

1/2 stick of salted butter

2 large onions, sliced

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

2 large Idaho potatoes, sliced thinly (The original recipe says to peel them, but I like the depth of flavor the skin brings to the dish)

1/4 cup of chopped parsley to garnish

And here's what you'll do with all that:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Rinse the chicken pieces and dry them thoroughly before seasoning them well with salt and pepper. Put the chicken in a lightly oiled baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Be sure you turn the pieces halfway during baking.

3. While the chicken is baking, fry the bacon until crisp then put it on a paper towel-lined plate.

4. Then, pour vegetable oil into a frying pan and deep fry the potatoes until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, place them on paper towels to drain and season them well with salt and pepper.

5. In another pan, melt the butter, then add the onions and saute them until they are caramelized. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of water to moisten the onions and lift any bits of browned goodness off the bottom of the pan. Crumble the bacon into the onions and add the garlic too. Toss to combine the ingredients, then remove from the heat.

6. When the chicken is done, pour the onion mixture on top of it and then add the potatoes too (I don't think you don't have to use all the potatoes in this step; just use enough to make it look pretty. Because people have different views on how much starch they should eat, you can have the additional potatoes in a different serving dish at the end so that people can help themselves). Return the baking dish to the oven and cook together for an additional 3-5 minutes.

What you get for your efforts: Mmmmmm. Something that's perfect for a cold night like tonight.

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