Back to the Bistro

If you have read the recent post in which I enthuse with abandon on Tante Paulette’s Garlic Salad, you will understand why today I am posting her recipe for the dish that actually catapulted her tiny four-table bistro to worldwide fame back in the ‘80s: Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic. In my experience, when it comes to good cooking lightening frequently does strike in the same place twice. One might even venture to say that lightening is considerably more likely to strike a second or third time at a table where one has already enjoyed a transcendent food moment. I don’t require statistical odds to prove my point on this matter, and neither should you; just trust me on this one. Anecdotal? Perhaps. However, take into consideration the following

1)    I am old. Read: I have been at this a bit (ahem, eons) longer than most of my readers.

2)    I really pay attention to the food I eat. Read: you will never see a recipe on my website that I don’t want to eat again and again.

3)    I have dined at many a table since I crawled off the ark, and have little difficulty naming those whose gustatory pleasures were such that I would consider donating my right pinkie to secure another invitation to dinner. Read: It is a good thing for me to try to put at your fingertips as many of Tante Paulette’s talented creations as I can muster up.

Some matters should simply go unchallenged. This is one of them. Tante Paulette (although, sadly,  no longer among us) agrees.

After tasting the aforementioned salade extraordinaire, I went a-googling and to my library looking for any and all recipes bearing her name that might still exist out there in the culinary ether. This legendary classic is among the best of them. Unfortunately, it seems to have appeared in only one edition of Patricia Welles’ A Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, and, as fate would have it, the one I found in my library network was not that edition. Fortunately, a wonderful friend of mine from my years flogging my food passion on a popular online food forum, came to the rescue. Stan, smart, incredibly well-versed in all things culinary, and multilingual to boot, found and translated the recipe for me from a French source. So, a tip o’ the hat to Stan for his kind efforts on our behalf.

Serves 6


The Food Lover’s Guide to France

3 T olive oil

2 T butter

6 large chicken legs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

40 large cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken stock

12 slices from a baguette

2 cloves garlic

3 T Cognac or other brandy

3 T chopped parsley

Put the oil and butter in a Dutch oven or large deep skillet over medium heat while you season the chicken with salt and pepper. When the fat is hot but not smoking, add half the chicken legs and increase the heat to high. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter and repeat with the remaining legs, lowering the heat if needed, to prevent burning. Repeat with the remaining chicken legs, and add them to the platter.

Lower the heat to medium and put in the unpeeled garlic. Cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and increase the heat to medium-high. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to bring up any browned bits. Add the stock and return the chicken to the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken shows no more pink, about 12 more minutes. (Cut into the thickest part of the thigh with the tip of a paring knife if you’re not sure it’s done.) Stir gently once or twice to cook the chicken evenly.

While the chicken cooks, toast the baguette slices and peel and halve the 2 garlic cloves. Rub the toast on both sides with the cut sides of the garlic.

Put the Cognac in a small saucepan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Carefully ignite with a match and add to the chicken. Shake the pan a few times to stir the contents and cook a few minutes.

Remove the chicken to a platter or individual soup plates. Reduce the liquid in the pan slightly over high heat. Taste for salt and pepper and pour the garlic and pan juices over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or noodles. Once removed from its skin, the garlic can be spread on bread or stirred into the pan juices.

Potato Gribiche is a flavor-packed bistro-style salad from the same French bakery (Rose Bakery) whose famous Carrot Cake I recreated in an earlier post, with exceptional results. This oven-roasted potato dish is dressed with a perfectly executed gribiche sauce, bursting with some of the most piquant French flavors: capers, cornichons, shallots and Dijon mustard. Then it’s given an unusual twist. You toss the sauce with oven-roasted potatoes. The end result is a salad with the toasty butteriness of roasted veggies and the perky ingredients of a gribiche sauce. In other words, a winner.

However, please take note: This salad, as written, suffers from sitting. If you want the flavors the recipe offers, but need to hold it for awhile, I recommend that you steam the potatoes rather than roasting them. When left too long the roasted potatoes in the salad turn unpleasantly tough and chewy. The salad is equally delicious made the alternative way.


Breakfast, Lunch, Tea

3 pounds 3 ounces small Red Bliss waxy potatoes

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

3 ounces gherkins (of the French variety, as in cornichons,) finely chopped

2 T capers, finely chopped

2 to 3 shallots, finely chopped

Pinch each salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 T red wine vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 large handfuls coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 425º F.

Cut potatoes into approximately 1” cubes, and put them on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven, untouched, for 30 minutes. Take them out of the oven and toss them around. Put back in the oven and bake for about another 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are golden and crisp-looking, but not as crisp as a French fry. You still want them soft in the inside.

While the potatoes are cooking, in a small bowl, combine the eggs, gherkins, capers, shallots and salt and pepper to taste, Dijon, and olive oil. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cooked, and while still warm (so they will absorb the flavors of the dressing), put them in a serving bowl and fold in the dressing and the parsley.

Serve while slightly warm or cold.

I have not tried the following variations offered in the book, but I sure plan on trying them:

Add to the basic recipe:

14 ounces chorizo, chopped. Add to the potatoes for the last 5 minutes of roasting, then mix well so the flavors combine.

4 red peppers, cut into large chunks and added to the potatoes on the baking tray before roasting.

Maggie’s Roasted Red Peppers are among the easiest of shelf staples I make, and also the most versatile. Once you have made them you will find there are countless places where they add unexpected depth and complexity even to the simplest of dishes. I love the addition of some heat in the form of chile peppers (not to mention a ton of garlic … always a nice touch). Throw some in a potage and you will transform it into a memorable “bistro” starter. Put some in a saucepan with some cream and simmer to meld the flavors and you will have an instant pasta sauce. They are also wonderful as a side dish to accompany roasts of all stripes. The possibilities are endless.

Note: I am always on the lookout for peppers in the section of my grocery store’s  produce department where they frequently offer “seconds”, since they are perfect for making Maggie’s Roasted Red Peppers. My store even bundles the peppers together in an assortment of colors, so I get a beautiful multicolored batch for a fraction of the normal cost.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Bistro Cooking

5 ounces small, mildly hot
Green chiles (such as serrano), or 2 to 3 ounces hot green chiles, cut into thick strips (or substitute 1 tsp. hot red pepper flakes)
6 large red bell peppers (about 3 pounds, cored, seeded, and cut into thick strips
2 heads of garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Seed the chiles and slice them into thin strips, removing the white
ribs on the inside. (When preparing chiles be sure to wear rubber
gloves to protect your hands.)

Layer the chiles, bell peppers, garlic, and olive oil in a very large,
shallow baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake until the
peppers are quite soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking until the peppers are just slightly charred and very
soft, about 45 more minutes.

Serve hot as a side dish, or store, covered, in a large jar and
serve chilled, as a condiment

The peppers can be stored, well sealed and covered with liquid
for several weeks

This entry was posted in Favorite Recipes, Poultry, Vegetables and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s