If you’re like many people, you might feel a bit overwhelmed when you’re planning a meal for guests – and you want to fix something a bit special, but not too time consuming. Try this: a flavorful French stew can advance your reputation for “simple but delicious” cuisine!
The backstory: During my recent stay in the south of France, I was introduced to this delicious recipe for Chicken Bouillabaisse, a flavorful stew with potatoes, herbs and spices — prepared by local cooking guru Chitra Pullen. The recipe’s French touches are what give it its special flavor – so try not to skip ingredients or substitute too much – and by all means, try to get pastured, organic chicken and the best quality veggies you can find! If you want to find a complementary dry white wine from this province of France, look for something labelled “Pays d’Oc” or “Languedoc-Roussillon.” Chitra served the bouillabaisse with an economical bottle of Domaine Puy-Viognier, and a wonderful green salad. Serving a dollop of garlic-y rouille to each bowl adds a creamy, non-dairy element to the stew – I’ll add the recipe for that, as well.
Chicken Bouillabaisse (6-8 servings)
you may wish to double if you want seconds!
1 whole chicken, cut into 8-10 pieces – or about 5 lbs. of chicken, bones included
1-2 T. minced fresh rosemary
Olive oil – the best you have
2 large fists of garlic – yes, lots of cloves make up 1 fist – organic has best flavor
1 generous pinch of saffron threads (soaked in a little water first)
1 heaping teaspoon of whole fennel seeds
1 small can/bottle of organic tomato purée
Concentrated chicken stock (homemade, if you have it) – about 10-12 oz.
Dry white wine (non-alcoholic if you wish) – about 7-8 oz or one good “slug”
3-4 T. Pernod – a critical ingredient – or in the south of France, “Ricard” is used
1 and 1/2 lbs. of organic potatoes, cut into large bite-sized pieces
sea salt to taste, adjust at the end!
Rinse the chicken pieces, pat dry, and season generously with pepper, a little salt and the fresh rosemary. Heat about 2T of olive oil over medium heat in a large casserole (or stew pot.) Brown the chicken pieces in batches, until nicely browned all over. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Lower the heat a little, and add the garlic, saffron (with liquid), fennel seeds, tomato purée, chicken stock, white wine, Pernod, about 2 teaspoons of sea salt (or less) and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper (your choice) to the pot. Stir, scraping any browned, tasty bits into the mix – Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the garlic is very tender. Stir occasionally, and watch that the heat is well-adjusted, so you don’t scorch your sauce.
Carefully pour the stewed sauce into the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Be sure it is safe to process hot liquids, or let it cool a bit so you can do this step. Purée until smooth.
Return the sauce to the pot, and add the browned chicken pieces, with their juices from the plate. Cover the pot, and cook on low heat for about 20-30 minutes. Some cooks might finish this in a medium oven – but usually this is done on the stovetop.
Add the potatoes, and continue to cook for another 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, the chicken is completely cooked through and comes off the bone easily. Adjust the seasonings (sea salt, pepper) to your taste.
Serve in shallow bowls, with a dollop of “rouille” and a wonderful green salad with a simple vinaigrette.
3-5 large cloves of garlic, organic preferred
1 egg yolk, fresh/organic, best from pastured hens!
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice – or a hint more, to taste
1 heaping teaspoon of tomato purée
1 pinch of saffron threads, in a tiny bit of water to soak briefly
1 teaspoon ground chilis, or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Moroccan “harissa”
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
7-8 oz of your best olive oil
Method: Crush the garlic (in a press if you have one), then put the garlic into a food processor with the egg yolk, fresh lemon juice, saffron, chili, and tomato purée. Process until smooth. With the machine still running, pour the olive oil in, in a steady stream through the funnel opening, to make a thick mayonnaise-type whip. Transfer to a bowl, and store in the fridge until ready to serve. Although it seldom lasts beyond the meal – it’s so delicious – it will keep for a few days in the fridge. Note: The French have no fear of healthy egg yolks – if you do, then please adjust the recipe to suit your level of trust in your egg source!