I'm starting my own Harry Potter franchise! It'll involve gastronomy instead of magic. But I'll maybe include sodomy instead of witchcraft, so at least the books will get banned in all the right places.
On the way home from work today, I noticed that somebody had taken advantage of the dark-grey asphalt that has been laid down as sidewalk in the area around the “Rive Gauche” neighborhood (Université Paris VII, to be exact) to write various slogans in contrasting, light-toned paint. Most of it is of the “rent is too high!” “squatters rights!” variety, but there’s also this:
Aug 08 – Sep 08, en mémoire des feuilles mortes, tombées pour l’automne.
In translation: Aug 08 – Sep 08, in memory of dead leaves, fallen for autumn. Anyone who’s spent some time in a Western European city will recognize this as the standard formula for a war memorial (especially WWI and WWII), so I thought this was amusing and oddly poignant. All the more so because there is a lot of new construction here, which means that there are only baby trees planted here and there.
Anyway, I had noticed that Monoprix was selling black trumpet mushrooms (In French, trompettes de la mort, or “trumpets of death”), so I grabbed a handful and took them home. The other night, I had bought two pear-like fruits called coing, which I had presumed to be a variety of pears, since in the autumn you can often find a selection of 4-8 varieties in many stores. When I peeled one and tried to eat it, I found it beautifully perfumed, but hard, fibrous, and sour. So I looked up “coing” online and discovered that it actually meant “quince.” Ah. So I boiled the already-peeled one to soften and de-sour it, and it was lovely and fragrant.
So tonight, I had a handful of black trumpet mushrooms, one large quince, and a hankering for a bit of chicken. I hit the butcher near my place and picked up a cuisse de poulet, which means “chicken thigh,” but tends to resemble a dark-meat quarter-chicken by American standards: drumstick, thigh and the part of the back where it meets the thigh. My plan was to make a slow-cooked dish, so I thought a bone-in, skin-on, dark-meat quarter would do the trick rather nicely.
So I browned the thigh for a while in a relatively deep pan, removed the chicken and added a pat of butter to the chicken fat and the peeled and diced quince, added the mushrooms after the quince had gotten a bit soft, and then stirred the whole thing and stuck the chicken thigh back in. I covered the saucepan and let it simmer for a while until the mushrooms and the quince and the chicken had all rendered their juices, and then I added maybe a ½-cup of water and covered again and cooked for about half an hour. The result? Deliciousness. Quince has a lot of pectin in it, so by the time the fruit had come apart and turned into a sort of sweet jam, I had this thick mushroomy-sweet sauce that I could slather over the chicken and eat.
I had bought this demi-bouteille of 1989 Saint-Émilion Bordeaux wine for 7€ the other day (“expensive” by French standards), so I cracked it open to have with the chicken. Nearly 20 years old, that wine was the smoothes, most buttery red wine I think I’ve ever had. Just amazing. It was maybe a bit too mild for fans of the Cahors or Côtes du Rhône, super-tannic wines, but it’s the kind of thing you could serve to almost anyone.
So, without further ado, another recipe:
Chicken à la LMGM (Quinces and Trumpets of Death!!1!)
- 1 cuisse de poulet, which is like a quarter-chicken with the drumstick and thigh together.
- A bit of olive oil
- A pat of butter (2 tablespoons)
- 1 large quince, peeled and cubed
- 1-3 cloves of garlic
- 3-4 big handfuls of black trumpet mushrooms (morels might be another substitute)
- ¼-½-cup of water or chicken stock
- Rub the chicken with a bit of oil, then place in the already-hot pan or dutch oven. Fry for 3-5 minutes on both sides over medium heat, until brown.
- Remove chicken and leave on plate (note, it will leak juice, so don’t just put it on the counter!)
- Melt butter into the remaining chicken fat in the pan, add quince, salt lightly and stir.
- Once the quince has become glossy and a bit soft, add chopped garlic and mushrooms. Stir to coat.
- Reduce heat, return chicken to pan (and any drippings that leaked out onto the plate), cover and simmer on low heat.
- After 7-10 minutes, the mushrooms and quince should’ve released their liquid into the pan. Add water or chicken stock until there is about 1.5 cm of liquid in the pan (1/2”), stir, and then cover and continue simmering.
- After 30 minutes, grab the drumstick and give it a pull. If the meat falls from the bone or the joint comes apart, it’s ready. If it’s not ready, dilute the liquid as necessary, cover and cok for another 15 minutes.
- When ready, remove the chicken and reduce the sauce if necessary to desired thickness. If the sauce is too greasy for your liking (depends on how fatty the chicken was), add some bread crumbs or crushed saltines to absorb some of that and simmer for a few minutes while stirring.
- Pour sauce over chicken and serve.
Things I might do differently next time:
- Add shallots with the garlic
- Use an entire découpe de poulet (i.e., an entire chicken cut into pieces), so that the sauce could be eaten with the breast.
- Maybe experiment with “sweet” spices like nutmeg or cloves or allspice.
- Finish the sauce with a healthy dose of crème fraiche.
- Try using cèpe/porcini mushrooms, for a more noticeable mushroom texture.
- Try substituting the braising liquid with white wine or maybe a sauterne (sweet white wine).
- Try using duck fat instead of butter, and replacing the chicken thigh with duck breast.