Cooking food I love is my biggest passion. Our kitchen reminds me of a temple, plates covered with fruits and vegetables, brightening the room with all the bold colours. Inspiration comes from my past food memories. I’ll have a sudden idea, a craving for a taste. That’s when I get driven to create le plat du jour (dish of the day). You just can’t beat the feeling of getting exactly what you want, and the best part of it is that you made it at home.
My husband came back from our local épicerie fine having bought a lovely bottle of vin jaune du Jura, in other words yellow wine from Jura, a region in Eastern France. Made from the Savagnin grape, this wine is matured in a barrel under a film of yeast, known as voile, on the wine’s surface. The rich and powerful aroma is mesmerizing. Oddur poured a glass to sample with a few slices of twenty-four months aged Comté cheese, also from Jura. One sniff of the intense smell and I was completely spellbound. I knew I wanted to cook chicken, something similar to drunken chicken, a Shanghainese dish I adore. There’s such a strong resemblance in the aromas. So I cooked a poulet jaune with girolles, flavoured with this intense wine and crème fraîche.
The sun was pouring through the kitchen windows. I prepared the onion, garlic and girolles mushrooms. The yellow chicken from the Landes, renowned for their maize seed diet (giving the yellow colour to the meat), was ready to be drowned in the wine. The glow of the Comté cheese I was nibbling on the side, the butter melting in the pot, everything was gold and sun-kissed. There’s something so special about cooking with a little treasure that changes everything. It’s like magic, one touch and it turns into a golden dish. That’s what it’s like cooking with this wine.
On the gold and bright theme, there are little daffodils everywhere, brightening the scenery in the most charming way. These flowers remind me of littles poussins, baby chicks. Spring, Easter, more chocolate. William Wordsworth’s poem ‘Daffodils’ came to my mind.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
And how could I resist giving Squiffy and Bee a cuddle, they looked so heavenly and their smell is simply irresistible. To quote Colin Firth in a movie I love, ‘A single man’, their ears smell like buttered toast. What a memorable scene with a Proustian twist.
It was such a big and rewarding lunch, dessert was out of the question. We went with a French classic. You can never go wrong with a black espresso and a Michoko (or in my case three, please get the pack out of my sight, they are dangerous).
Ingredients: (serves a 4-6)
Yellow chicken des Landes (poulet jaune des Landes) – approx. 2 kilos/ 4.5 pounds (alternatively you can use a good-quality free-range chicken) – cut into 6/7 portions.
350 ml/ 1 & 1/2 cups yellow Jura wine
350 ml/ 1 & 1/2 cups crème fraîche
1 large onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced finely
350 g/ 3/4 pounds girolles mushrooms (or any of your favourite mushrooms)
80 g/ 1/3 cup unsalted butter
Coarse sea salt and black pepper for seasoning
A few sprigs of chives (finely chopped)
In a large cast iron pot, melt the butter and fry the onion and 2 garlic cloves (sliced) on a medium to low heat for 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, season with salt and pepper and fry on each side for a few minutes until slightly golden. Pour the wine and reduce for 3-4 minutes, lower heat (as low as possible), cover and leave to cook for one hour.
When you are getting close to serving time, melt one tbsp of butter in a frying pan and fry the remaining garlic and mushrooms for a few minutes. Lower heat, add the crème fraîche along with 2/3 of the wine sauce from the chicken. Simmer on the lowest heat possible for 10 minutes.
When ready to serve, place chicken on a serving plate and cover generously with the mushroom cream sauce. Garnish with finely chopped chives. Serve with steamed spinach and mashed potatoes as side dishes.