Monday, 20 February 2012

Poulet Béarnais - cooked on a bed of garlic.

Yesterday was a perfect Sunday for a Sunday Chicken roast... I sat up in bed with me mug of tea and perused a few cookery books while the rain beat upon the Velux window above our bed and then, looking through the triangular window at the bedroom's other end I could not make out the shore of Switzerland through the lake's covering of mist. At least it will be snowing a little higher up I thought.

I turned of course to Elizabeth David's 'French Country Cooking'. I found her quotation of Ford Madox Ford's recount of a London mannequin cooking garlic and Poulet Béarnais in his piece entitled 'Provence' and published in 1938.

I then turned to the internet and a quick Google click threw up a few references to this and it occurred to me that some bloggers miss the point for some reason. One had written, Poulet Béarnaise from Provence. And then went on to say "glamorous young woman from London who was reputed to be one of the best chefs in the city." This is not what Ford writes at all. She was, in the 1930's, a mannequin. What was that then? A model! Not though the kind of model we are used to seeing à la Kate Moss on the catwalk. Usually a débutante, a young woman who had been well and expensively educated. Would she get a job in a bank? Not in 1930's London even if the Bank concerned was Daddy's! But could she cook? Of course she could. That was what being a débutante at the time was all about so indeed she may indeed have been one of the best cooks in London, but she sure wasn't a chef.

So, 'Béarnaise from Provence'. Hmmm. Béarn is in the Pyrénees between Bayonne and Pau. Quite some distance from Provence. Apart from giving it's name to an entire province it also gives it's name to the well known sauce of, basically, 'egg & melted butter'. People from Béarn are either Béarnais or Béarnaise dependent upon their gender. Collectively they are known as les Béarnais.

But this dish is not from Provence in which case it would be known as something like Poulet Provençale which means it would be cooked in or nappé in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions and of course, garlic. The usual suspects.

Another blogger would seem to have fallen into the very same trap, twice. If the article was called, 'Provence' it is merely including in that writing this recipe; not suggesting that the recipe is from that beautiful area.
So; take a few heads of garlic, and break them up, peel them (and I gave up when I got to about 470 grams of them) and put them in an oiled Le Creuset type oven pan. Next clean one grain fed open air reared small chicken, and rub olive oil over it, season it and place it onto the bed of garlic.

Heat an oven, I chose 'traditionnel' rather than'pulsé' - fan assisted, and set it to 180C. I left it to cook for an hour and a half and it was perfect.

I'd have loved to have met Elizabeth David. I'd have loved to have cooked this for her too...

No comments: