Thursday, November 4, 2010

Julia Child, James Beard and Lots of Garlic

Okay, the past two posts were a bit intense with the plague and King Alphonso's garlic-hating, so I think something exuberant is in order. Enter Lady Julia and Sir James. In the 1950s and 60s, it’s no exaggeration to say that James Beard and Julia Child revolutionized American cooking. Child, of course, focused on French cuisine in her classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, written with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. Beard loved to astound his students with the classic Provençal classic, Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. As Betty Fussell wrote in Masters of American Cookery, in the 1950s, calling for forty cloves of garlic in a single recipe was tantamount to joining the Communist Party. Bon Appetit Comrade!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

30 cloves of garlic
4 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 c boiling milk
1/4 t. salt
Pinch of white pepper

Drop garlic into boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and peel. Melt butter in small heavy-bottom saucepan and cook garlic slowly in butter, covered, for about 20 minutes until soft but not browned. Add flour and stir over low heat for 2 minute. Off heat stir in milk, salt, and pepper. Return to heat and simmer for 1 minute, stirring. Press through a sieve or puree in a food processor. Set aside.

2-1/2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 T. softened butter
White pepper
2-4 T. whipping cream
4 T. minced parsley

Boil or microwave potatoes until soft then drain and put through a potato ricer or food mill. Return to pan and stir over low heat for a few minutes to evaporate some of the excess moisture. As soon as the puree begins to form a film on the bottom of the pan remove from heat and beat in the butter 1 T. at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste. Beat in the garlic sauce and enough cream to reach the desired consistency. Beat in the minced parsley and serve.

Upping the ante, Beard’s following chicken recipe calls for not thirty, but forty cloves of garlic. He used to teach this Provençal recipe for years in his classes and said “it never failed to astonish the students because the garlic becomes so mild and buttery when it's cooked through!" This recipe is a popular Passover dish and Jewish cooks say the forty cloves represent the Israelites’ forty years of wandering.

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

2/3 c. olive oil
8 chicken drumstick and thighs (or 16 of either)
4 ribs celery, cut in long strips
2 medium onions, chopped
6 sprigs parsley
1 T. chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 t. dried
1/2 c. dry vermouth
2 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
40 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Put the oil in a shallow dish, add the chicken pieces, and turn them to coat all sides evenly with the oil.

Cover the bottom of a heavy 6-quart casserole with a mixture of the celery and onions, add the parsley and tarragon, and lay the chicken pieces on top. Pour the vermouth over them, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a dash or two of nutmeg, and tuck the garlic cloves around and between the chicken pieces. Cover the top of the casserole tight with aluminum foil and then the lid (this creates an air-tight seal so the steam won't escape).
Bake in a 375°oven for 1 1/2 hours, without removing the cover.

Serve the chicken, pan juices, and whole garlic cloves with thin slices of heated French bread or toast. The garlic should be squeezed from the root end of its papery husk onto the bread or toast, spread like butter, and eaten with the chicken.

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