Long before Julia Child made it possible for housewives to master the art of French cooking, a woman named Hannah Glasse was helping cooks in England and the American colonies lend a little French flavor to their dinner menu. Glasse’s cookbook, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” was first published in 1747, and was the go-to cooking reference book during its publication run.
It is from this revolutionary work that we get this recipe, which I found on one of my favorite websites, History is Served, written by the cooks of the Department of Historic Foodways at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. I envy these men and women-they have the coolest job in the world-researching and cooking historic recipes, and translating them for the modern kitchen. (hire me!)
Here is the 18th century version of “Chicken the French Way”:
QUARTER chickens, then broil them, crumble over them a little bread and parsley; when they are half done, put them in a stew-pan, with three or four spoonful’s of gravy, and double the quantity of white wine, salt, and pepper, some fried veal-balls, and some suckers (baby artichokes), onions, shallots, and some green gooseberries or grapes when in season; cover the pan close, and let it stew on a charcoal fire for an hour; thicken the liquor with the yolks of eggs, and the juice of lemon; garnish the dish with fried suckers, sliced lemon, and the livers.
As always, I made a few modifications. I didn’t have a shallot, so I used a Penzey’s spice blend that contained them (Fox Point). I also lacked raisins, so I substituted with Craisins, which were delicious and added a beautiful contrast of color to the dish.
Here is my version, courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg:
• 6 skinless chicken thighs
• ¼ cup plain bread crumbs
• 1 teaspoon dried parsley
• 2 cups chicken broth
• A bottle of white wine
• One sweet yellow onion, diced
• 1 shallot, diced or 1 teaspoon herb mix
• Juice of one lemon
• ½ cup golden raisins, grapes, or Craisins
• 3 egg yolks
Coat a broiling pan with cooking spray. Preheat your oven to broil on low heat. In a medium bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and parsley and lightly coat each chicken thigh, then place them on the broiler.
Broil chicken for about 7 minutes, until they are just beginning to turn brown on the outside. Remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a stew pot, mix broth, wine, onion, shallot, lemon juice, Craisins (or raisins or grapes, cut in half) and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink on the inside and the liquid is no longer foamy.
Remove the chicken and keep warm. In a small bowl, whip the egg yolks and then gradually add ¼ cup of the liquid from the stew pot to the eggs, constantly stirring the eggs so that they don’t cook. Stir the yolk and broth/wine mixture back into the rest of the liquid in the stew pot. Heat the mixture gradually until it thickens slightly-about 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve!
I love that French cooking so often involves a slow stew of meat in wine-I think it adds a unique flavor and it certainly did to this dish. It’s sophisticated-great for a dinner party! I served it with a baked potato, a side of pumpkin soup, and a slice of bread. As Julia would say, “Bon Appetit!”
Next blog post: Brownies, not from a box!