Blancs de Poulet au Ragoût de Petits Légumes et Lardons (From French Brasserie Cookbook, Galmiche 2011)
(That’s pan-fried chicken with garden vegetable and pancetta ragoût by the way.)
I shall now lay before you the full and shameful extent of my lack of culinary prowess. As a vegetarian from the ages of 8 to 28, I could have been forgiven for not having learned to cook meat (indeed, I didn’t learn to cook at all). But in the 7 years that have passed since then, I still have never learned to cook meat (or indeed, learned to cook at all, until now). All I have managed to date is bolognese mince and pan frying chopped chicken fillet to wrap into a home-made fajita. Which brings me to the shocking revelation that, at 35 years old, this is the first time I have cooked meat on the bone.
Every year, it snows in London. And every year, London stops functioning because of it. So, having slid precariously to the supermarket in -3° celsius, I discovered that half the supermarket’s shelves were empty. Either deliveries hadn’t made it through the terrifying and deadly whole inch of snow, or London had been sent into mass apocalyptic meltdown and everyone was panic-buying broad beans. So I picked up a can of cannellini instead since they seemed to be a better substitute than baked beans.
The heady haze of roasted thyme fills the kitchen, while the succulent and tender chicken soaks in its garlicky jus. My cannellini bean understudies sadly turn a little dry on frying with the lardons, but are delicious nonetheless. But then everything tastes good with bacon, even brussel sprouts (just).
But I have a problem with this dish. It looks deceptively simple when in reality it requires a good degree of hoo-hah. On the plate, it looks like you fried some chicken, beans and bacon and chucked some stock over it. In reality, all of the processes together use every pan, dish and knife in your kitchen and the washing up is epic. This is not food to make on a date. You will spend much of the evening in the kitchen on the hoo-hah, your date won’t appreciate that you did anything other than frying and chucking in an overly time-consuming and burdensome manner, and you won’t be able to relax because whereas you would normally have roped in some other poor sod to do the epic washing up at the end of the meal so you can put your feet up, your date probably won’t be impressed if that’s how his/her evening ends up, and how can you relax into the mood when the kitchen looks like an asteroid landed on it?
Despite that, try it (in a non-date scenario), because I still recommend it because it tastes damn good. And that’s all that counts really, isn’t it?
2 x chicken breasts on the bone / 200g shelled broad beans (or cannellini beans if you’re snowed in) / 7 spring onions / 50g unsmoked lardons / 30g butter / 1 garlic clove / 2 sprigs of thyme / sunflower oil / pinch caster sugar / 2 tbsp chicken stock / salt & pepper / all of your pans
Blanch broad beans in boiling water 20 secs, drain, ice cold water, drain, peel / 1 tbsp sunflower oil in heavy pan medium heat, chicken seasoned and skin-side down in pan, partially cover, 8 mins / Turn chicken, add knob of butter, crushed unpeeled garlic clove and 1 sprig thyme, partially cover, 8 mins / Put in dish, cover in foil, keep warm / Keep juices in pan for jus / Fry spring onion white bulbs only in butter, season, sprinkle sugar / Add 2 tbsp water, cook low, covered, 15 mins / Blanch lardons 1 min in boiling water, drain, cold water, drain / Lardons medium heat until bit crispy / Stir in beans, spring onions, 1 sprig of thyme leaves only, keep warm / Stock in jus pan, simmer 2 mins, add rest of butter / Slice chicken and serve