Le Petite Gourmet
Can firefighters heat it up in the kitchen too? Oui oui! My husband and I met some great friends when he was going through the fire academy seven years ago. The boys bonded daily during the intense six-month training and the girls bonded weekly during Friday night happy hours. Believe me, the process was just as tough on us!
We became very close to two of the couples and the six of us started our own gourmet club six years ago. We were inspired by the parents of our friend Scott. They had been part of a group for more than 30 years and called themselves “The Gourmets.” We realized quickly we all had a passion for food (after all, the boys do have to cook in the fire house!) and named ourselves “The Petite Gourmets.” We have attempted to meet monthly ever since (as often as we can when trying to coordinate with three different shifts of firefighter schedules!).
Each dinner has a theme selected by the hosts. Typically, the hosts are in charge of the entrée, and the other couples choose to make either the appetizers or dessert. This month, my hubby and I hosted and chose a French theme. Our friends Julia and Steve arrived with arms full. They had prepared an appetizer and a first course! We started with a Phyllo-Wrapped Brie that oozed creamy cheese, pecans, and cinnamon when the perfectly crispy egg-washed dough was broken into.
Then, it was to all of our surprise when they pulled a large pot out of their bags to make individual ramekins of French Onion Soup. The rich broth, caramelized onions, softened croutons and melted cheese all melded together under the broiler. It was certainly a crowd pleaser!
Josh and I had always wanted to try Ina Garten’s Forty-Clove Garlic Chicken from Barefoot in Paris and it did not disappoint. The sauce poured over the chicken just before serving truly makes the dish. It’s deliciously creamy and the garlic doesn’t overwhelm. We paired it with one of Ina’s classics, an Arugula Salad with Parmesan, Lemon, and Olive Oil.
Heidi, Scott’s wife, is the dessert queen. She jumped at the chance to make Crème Brulée, which requires a torch, so the boys got their fix. (Surprisingly, no one chose a dish that required any igniting. You’d think this group would jump at the chance to do a flambé!) Heidi received a crash course in crème brulée earlier in the day from her mother-in-law, an original “Gourmet.” Served with fresh berries, the traditional preparation was one of our best desserts ever.
Below is the dish we prepared from Ina’s cookbook. Many of her recipes are available at www.foodnetwork.com. Bon Appetit!
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Copyright 2004, Barefoot in Paris, All Rights Reserved
3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
2 (3 1/2-pound) chickens, cut into eighths
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
3 tablespoons Cognac, divided
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds. Drain the garlic and peel. Set aside.
Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs or a spatula; you don’t want to pierce the skin with a fork. If the fat is burning, turn the heat down to medium. When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to saute all the chicken in batches. Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done.
Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland. Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot.