Monday, September 19, 2011

Essert-Romand. Day nine - still raining, but we were compenstated by a short trip to Morzine where I managed to buy a cheap umbrella for three times what it was worth. Then a rather tasty supper: chicken breast with tarragon in white wine and cream sauce with braised chicory

Essert-Romand, Haute-Savoie, France.
Great day yesterday - for the second day in a row it rained, though to be fair it was not pelting down but only that soft, elegant, chic rain which makes visiting France so utterly delightful. So the brother and I decided the time had come to mooch around Morzine for a while to see just what delights that ski resort town might afford us in the depths of off-season. Well, not a lot, as it turned out. We drove in at around 1.30 in the afternoon, and as we arrived the rain began to fall again. (We had set of from Essert-Romand during what was, in fact, just a lull in the rain. We thought it was the end of the rain for that day. Obviously, it wasn’t.)

Parking in the marketplace (a delightful spot and highly recommended for those looking for somewhere to park in the off-season - loads and loads of space and hardly another motorist to contend with). My brother Mark was fully prepared for the rain as his very, very expensive North Face jacket (he has about ten of them) came with a hood. My rather cheaper Yves Saint Laurent wind-cheater (don’t worry, I bought it in a sale for just £20 about seven years ago) on the other hand did not. All the shops - and I mean all of them - were shut, but finally I came across one of those resort tat shops which was just opening again after lunch. (When I say ‘resort tat’ you must understand that any and all the tat available her in bling-bling Haut-Savoie is, of course, ineffably chic, elegant and French and knocks our good, honest British tat into a cocked hat.) So I barged in (the lights weren’t even on) and bought for bloody 6.50 euros exactly the same umbrella I have bought in Bayswater for as little as £2.99. Shouldn’t grumble, I suppose, because it was undoubtedly a far more chic and elegant crap umbrella than whatever I bought in Bayswater. And that, dear friends, was it.

We walked further into town and although one or two restaurants were empty, no shops were and by far the liveliest thing we saw was a flashing blue neon cross which informed all and sundry that if you had a headache, diarrhea or any other ailment which didn’t require hospitalisation it, the pharamacy it belonged to, would be only to glad to sell you whatever medication you need. Unlike our good, honest British supermarkets which will sell you enough paracetamol to kill a regiment, you have to buy all that kind of thing at la pharmacie. That supermarkets can now sell you shampoo and toothpaste apparently came about by presidential decree in 1985 after the French parliament had initially overruled an EU directive ensuring that both shampoo and toothpaste could be sold over the counter in all member states. (He took the view that if France were to have any kind of meaningful confrontation with the EU, it would be better to do so over some matter of greater importance than the general availability of shampoo and toothpaste. Good man!)

By a quarter past two, we had decided that enough was enough and made our way back to the car, but not until Mark spotted a noticeboard advertising coming attrations at the local cinema and various bars and was outraged that all - all - were horribly out of date and referred to attractions which took place in August, many over seven weeks earlier. But I managed to calm him down and we drove back to the local Carrefour where he had is picture taken in the photo booth in readiness for our trip to Lyon tomorrow to collect his emergency travel documents. Oh, and I bought créme fraîche and a baguette for tonight’s supper - chicken breast with tarragon. Mustn’t forget the really important details. Below is a picture of me enjoying myself.

. . .

I cooked supper tonight and it was superb. We had chicken breast with tarragon and, at my brother's suggestion, braised chicory, which I had never eaten before - I've only had chicory salad - and which was also worthwhile. But it is the chicken breast I am proud of because it was a dish I created on the hoof.

I've cooked roast chicken with tarragon before but rather than cook a complete chicken, I decided to use chicken breasts and after that I was on my own. All I did was to use a sharp knife to make a pocket in each breast and then I liberally sprinkled the inside with dried tarragon. I would have use fresh tarragon, but the local Carrefour doesn't stock it. I heated olive oil and butter - slowly, so as not to burn the butter - and when a small piece of chicken sizzled nicely, indicating that the oil and butter were hot enough, seared boths sides of each breast till they were brown. I then stuck a lid on the pan and left it on a low heat for a few minutes before, on impulse, I added a little vin bourru, which is a local white wine (in a region not known for its white wines. I'm sure any white wine, which is not too acidic would work. The chicken was then left to steam in the wine while I braised the chicory, again in olive oil and butter.

Once both sides of the chicory halves were slightly browned, I again put on the saucepan lid and the whole lot onto a low heat. I had put two plates to warm in the oven, and after about another 15 minutes, once the white wine had reduced a little, I took out the chicken, left it on the plates in the oven and added creme fraiche to the white wine with a little, very little, French mustard. All I then did was to heat up the creme fraiche until it was bubbling. I then served the chicken and chicory with the sauce. And even though I say so myself (for want of anyone else to sing my praises) it was gorgeous.

We ate it with a fresh baguette. Try it.

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