Monday, August 24, 2009

My Own Julie & Julia Experiment: Casserole Chicken Tarragon

It seems like everybody's talking about Julie & Julia. We're having great conversations at The Bookstore, no doubt prompted by our Julia Child inspired window display. If you haven't seen it yet, stop by. Jenny outdid herself again! She's even got an antique French butcher's knife on display -- it's a family heirloom. Yes, there's a story there, but you'll have to stop in to hear it.

Thanks to the movie, we're selling a lot of copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. One of our customers reported that she made the Boeuf Bourguignon from the movie (the dish that Julie burned when she passed out on the couch). It sounded like fun, so I decided to try one of Julia's recipes myself.

When I discovered that Meryl Streep's favorite Julia Child recipe was Casserole Chicken Tarragon (sounds even better in French: Poulet Poele a l'Estragon), I knew I'd picked the right recipe. Streep admitted in this month's Glamour Magazine that she's not much of a cook. The recipe was supposedly foolproof. The family was psyched.

The family was still psyched over two hours later when we finally sat down to eat. Now I know why the French eat so late: it's because the food isn't ready yet! My hungry teenager was ready to sneak a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while he waited. The chicken had to roast in the oven for an hour and 20 minutes, but first I had to fuss with browning each side on the burner.

The browning wasn't as simple as it sounds. Julia's recipe (you can almost hear her voice as you read it) warns to be careful not to rip the skin as you turned the chicken. Ha! Of course I did, and not just once. It looked like Jack the Ripper had been there. I had no idea how to flip the chicken (Julia didn't say) until my husband showed me how to stick the wooden spoons into opposite ends of the cavity. I got a little miffed: how did he know that anyway? Just like Julie, I found myself talking out loud: "Get real, Julia! Who cooks like this anymore? We don't even like the dark meat!" Seriously, I could throw a couple of chicken breasts in a pan with a little tarragon and be done in 15 minutes. Why the bother?

Mmmmmm, . . . that's why. The chicken was moist, tender and buttery (of course), and the tarragon flavor was so deeply absorbed it made the chicken taste like something new altogether. Like something above and beyond chicken as we know it today. My son was so grateful he helped me load the dishwasher at 10pm, even if it was a school night and he still had homework left to do.

So just like Julie, I learned a little something while cooking with Julia. That time and patience in the kitchen might actually be worth it. Maybe we've lost a little something in our 30-minute recipe mentality, and it's not just the flavor. It's time with your family. It's the grateful, admiring look on your family's faces as they taste something really, really good. There's a sense of pride in the creation. And at the risk of sounding like a much better cook than I really am, it's the "art" of French cooking.

Please call 630-469-2891 or e-mail us at to reserve your copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. ($40.00). Then share your cooking stories with us, we'd love to hear them.

1 comment:

  1. The chicken sounds yummy and I bet the house smelled good, keeping everyone's anticipation up.

    Here in France I've noticed that my neighbors (and we've been through a few) are extraordinarily punctual about eating. Lunch is always at 12:30 and dinner at 7:30 (or perhaps 8:00). I'm trying to learn how to better time things so I can be as punctual- it requires a certain amount of discipline.

    Here are some quick easy chicken recipes from France that reflect how most home cooks in France these days are cooking - for they are just as busy and stressed for time as in other places. Many if not most people here do still sit down for an hour in the evening to enjoy a meal with their family.

    Wish I could visit your bookstore!


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