Poulet aux Crevettes

French cuisine is often seen as a benchmark for gourmet cooking. The word “gourmet” is French, after all. I have never been to France, but from reading about it I’ve learned tons of things about this beautiful country. France is a land of variety with a rich array of home -grown produce, with every region having its own specialties. But I wondered, what makes this cuisine so special? Part of what distinguishes French cuisine is simply the attitude of the French towards food. The joys at the table are fundamental to their way of life, and food is a constant conversation throughout France. Chefs, cheesemakers, winemakers, bakers, and pastry chefs are respected and revered in ways that are unheard of elsewhere. French cooks would rather spend time finding fine fresh products, than stocking up on processed food. A funny thing I learned is that at one o’clock throughout France the traffic becomes suddenly lighter, why? Because the French have their feet under the table. 🙂

So what I will prepare tonight is a classic French dish which has its origins in Burgundy: Poulet aux Crevettes (chicken with prawns). This meal has an unusual combination of ingredients and the recipe is traditionally made with crayfish. Here in NYC it is easier for me to obtain shrimp, so that’s what I will roll with this time.

You will need:

3 lb whole chicken chopped into 8 pieces
14 jumbo shrimp with heads, if possible (mine are headless)
1 small onion, sliced
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp of all purpose flour
2 garlic cloves chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
2 large tomatoes, cored and quartered
bouquet garni (4 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, 4 inch piece of celery and one large bay leaf tied together)
3/4 cup of dry white wine
2 tbsp brandy
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
6 tbsp heavy cream
Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions:

Wash the chicken pieces, pat them dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large heatproof casserole or deep skillet and cook the shrimp over high heat until they turn bright red. Remove the shrimp, allow to cool slightly and remove the heads and shells and put aside for later (leave the tails on the shrimp). Chill the shrimp while the chicken is prepared. Add the chicken pieces to the casserole skin side down and cook over medium high heat for 10-12 minutes until golden brown, turning to cook evenly, you may need to cook in batches. Transfer chicken to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium high heat stirring frequently until it is golden. Sprinkle with the flour and continue cooking and stirring for 2 more minutes. Then add the wine and brandy and bring to a boil while constantly stirring. While mixture is boiling add the stock, shrimp shells, tomatoes, garlic, bouquet garni, and chicken pieces with any remaining juices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low. Cover and simmer 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife. Remove the chicken pieces and strain the cooking liquid, pressing down on the shells and vegetables to extract as much juice as possble. Skim fat from the top of the liquid with a spoon and discard, and return the liquid to the pan. Add the cream and boil until it is reduced by 1/3 and slightly thickened. Return chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Just before serving add shrimp and heat through. Arrange on warmed plates, pour some of the sauce over and garnish with fresh parsley.

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