02 November 2010

Vive La France

This week turned out to be all French inspired.  It all began on the weekend with a visit to La Cigale, Auckland's French Market. Full of beautiful seasonal fruit and vegetables, delicious French fare - pastries, macaroons, cheeses, pate. Plus lots of local goodies as well...fresh artisan bread, olives, hummus and dips, paella, smoked fish, rotisserie chickens, fresh pasta, beautiful fresh flowers, even the season's first peonies.  We left laden with bags of deliciousness and some gorgeous dusky pink roses.

The French theme continued on Tuesday with lunch at Pastis, a fabulous little French Bistro in Auckland city.  I had Navarin of Lamb - that classic spring French dish made with lamb and spring vegetables. Delicious and meltingly tender lamb.

A simple but delicious dish.  Here is a recipe adapted from La Cigale's version which I am sure will be delicious. Easily adapted with whatever vegetables you have on hand.

Navarin of Lamb

Serves 4

500g diced lamb, making sure that the pieces aren't too small.
A selection of diced vegetables, but be sure to include onions, carrots and celery.  You can also include parsnips, leeks and turnip.
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups, 500ml lamb stock
1 tbsp corn flour, just mix with a little water to thicken the sauce
2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried

Brown the lamb in batches in a little oil. Place in a large casserole dish.  In the same pan as you browned the lamb, soften all the diced vegetables and garlic. Add these to the casserole together. Sprinkle with the flour. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix everything together (it's easiest to do this with your hands).
Cook at 170
°C for at least 2 hours. Make sure the meat is tender - it really should be melt in the mouth. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with potatoes...et voila dinner is served. Bon appetite!
Carrying on the French theme was dinner back at La Cigale.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights it turns from bustling market in to a French bistro.  Wednesdays and Thursdays you have a choice of 2 main dishes that you pre order.  On offer on Thursday was rotisserie chicken or pork braised in apple cider.  We all chose the pork and most definitely a good choice.
On arrival roasted salted almonds and we shared a couple of charcuterie plates.  We had to ensure we left room for dessert.  The duck liver parfait was creamy and decadent, really tasty terrine, plus prosciutto and salami with conrnichons and a dollop of Dijon Mustard.  With fresh french bread and butter we were off to a good start.

The pork was tender and with the cider sauce and roasted apple to bring it all together, beautiful.  Served with a mountain of crispy potatoes and a green salad it was a classic bistro meal, hearty and filling.  

But there was still just a wee spot left for dessert.  I just find it sooo hard to go past a creme brulee and Mum not being a fan of the brulee went with apple pie. Both were delicious and definitely a little more than an elegant sufficiency.

It seemed only appropriate to end the week with a little french flair.  So I turned to Julia Child for a little classic french inspiration. It was also Sunday so a roast seemed perfect.

Julia Child's Roast Chicken 

Serves 4
1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery leaves
Salt and black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups chicken broth


Preheat oven to 425 °F.  (220°C)
Wash the chicken in hot water and dry thoroughly. Season the cavity with salt and black pepper and stuff with the onion, lemon, and celery leaves. Rub the chicken lightly with softened butter and season all over with salt and pepper. Tie the drumsticks ends together and set the chicken, breast side up, in an oiled v-shaped rack or on an oiled roasting pan in the oven.
Roast for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce the heat to 350 °F (190°C), baste the chicken, and roast for 15 minutes. Add the chopped onion and carrot to the pan, basting them and the chicken. Continue roasting the chicken until the juices run clear, for a total of 45 minutes plus an additional 7 minutes for each pound. (In other words, a 3 1/2 pound chicken would take a basic 45 minutes plus an additional 25 minutes, for a total 70 minutes or 1 hour and 10 minutes of cooking time.)
Remove the chicken and spoon the fat out of the roasting pan. Into the pan, stir in the herbs and blend in the broth and, stirring constantly, boil for several minutes on the stove top to concentrate the flavor. Correct the seasoning and strain the sauce into a warm sauce boat. Carve the chicken and serve with the warm sauce.

The only tweak I made was to add the chicken broth to the roasting dish which kept the chicken beautifully moist.  And to serve I scattered over some of the roasted carrots and onion. 

One succulent roasted chicken served with a fresh green salad, the most gorgeous leaves picked up at the Matakana Farmers Market.  Plus instead of potatoes a parsnip and pear puree...my new favourite.  It really is quite something and even better the following day.  The hint of pear just works wonders with the parsnip, so glad Jo introduced this one at Supper Club

Bon Appetite!


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