I really enjoy choosing dishes from a cookbook gift that my sister-in-law gave to me last Christmas. The cookbook is called "The French Country Table". I adore french cooking and making one of these dishes transports me back to the markets and streets of this food obsessed country.
I do find that french cooking can take the mundane chicken and pair it with ingredients that make the final dish sing with more savory flavors that the run of the mill chicken dishes. Often, they use full fat ingredients to achieve these wonderful flavors paired with a red or white wine that add more depths of flavor.
We don't change too many recipes in this household to "low fat" or "no fat" versions. I figure if the french can eat delicious rich meals in life then we can do it too. We try to be sure the week is balanced with healthier meal options and portions are kept in control. I'd rather eat salads during the week and go all out on a delicious full flavored dinner on Sunday.
This recipe was delicious. I did think it important to soak up the oil from browning the chicken or the final sauce might taste too greasy. The recipe in the cookbook mentioned that this could be an easy, quick week night meal. Not at our house. I couldn't imagine cooking this menu for a week night meal. I would say it is a weekend dish.
Of course, delving into french cooking always transports my mind to daydreams of traveling throughout France. I remember, however, that I have not yet finished bringing you along on the tour through Switzerland! I think we left off at the Chocolate Factory near Gruyères, Switzerland.
Well, with that chocolate induced coma wearing off, let's get on the road again, and I'll show some highlights of driving along the Swiss countryside over to the Interlocken Lake area to a tiny town called Brienz.
The countryside of Switzerland is story book enchanting. I still cannot quite capture the stunning views and lush countryside of this dreamy country without shaking my head and wondering if the trip were all a pleasant but fictional dream. I sat in the front seat and could barely blink I didn't want to miss a sight.
We know it is always risky but we do love to travel in late September or October. Tourists have vanished, roads are empty for miles, and locals seem to be friendlier to us. Fall had descended upon Switzerland. We were incredibly fortunate with the weather. The air was crisp and cool. The skies were piercing blue. We were even able to roll down the windows and just breathe in all of the beauty that is Switzerland.
We decided to pull into the little town of Brienz and look for a place along the lake to unwind, get out of the car and have a cup of coffee and a snack. We walked around the back of a cute little restaurant. I think we collectively gasped when we saw the stunning view that canvassed the scene before us.
We all agree that this stop was one of the most beautiful and relaxing (unexpected) stops on the trip. We indulged in scoops of ice cream, sat back, and just quietly tried to soak in all of this scenery.
It was so quiet and peaceful. This indeed felt like a vacation to truly celebrate 20 years of marriage. Even if the trip had ended on that day, we would have had one of the best trips yet and would have been grateful for just this much.
Bellies filled with Swiss ice cream and gorgeous scenery, we piled into the car and were on the road again to one of the highlights of our time in Switzerland. We planned to take a cog wheel train high up to the very snowy tippy top of the Jungfraujoch Mountains.
Around bends would reveal adorable covered bridges covering gurgling brooks that reminded us of Vermont's beautiful scenery.
We stopped for the afternoon at an outdoor "open air" museum called Swiss OpenAir Ballenberg. Ballenberg is the name of the town where it is located. Many historic homes from the different sections of Switzerland have all been transported to this outdoor museum for visitors to enjoy.
We wandered down marked paths and went into and out of furnished homes to see what living in the different regions of Switzerland was like at different time periods.
Of course, this worked up a mighty appetite and we stopped for a quick bit to eat before beginning our search for a hotel for the night somewhere around the town of Lauterbrunnen. Sausages and french fries it was, of course! We are in Switzerland and this seemed to be what everyone was ordering.
Next stop and the last stop on this journey through Switzerland is coming soon. That one will be filled with snowy vistas and perhaps a little zip-lining experience by "yours truly". What?
Do you think I am fibbing?
Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce
(adapted from the cookbook The French Country Table)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon safflower oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 free-range chicken, about 4 lbs, cut into 6-8 pieces (I used all chicken thighs and drumsticks)
2 carrots, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (I added garlic just because I can't resist it)
a sprig of thyme
2-3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
a bunch of tarragon
3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter and oil in a large sauté pan with a lid. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about 5 minutes, until brown. Put the browned chicken pieces on a paper towel lined plate and season well with salt and pepper.
Add the carrots, shallot, and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and add water to cover half-way. Add the thyme, parsley, and a few sprigs of tarragon. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, strip the leaves from the remaining tarragon, chop them finely, and set aside. Add the stems to the cooking chicken.
Remove the chicken from the pan and put it in a serving dish. Remove and discard the tarragon stems.
Increase the heat and cook the sauce until it has reduced by half. Strain and return the sauce to the pan. Stir in the crème fraîche and the chopped tarragon. Heat briefly (do not let it reach a boil as the cream will split) and pour over the chicken. Serve immediately.