Poulet au Cidre Breton (from FrenchEntree.com) with Parmentier de Pommes de Terre

My guests were somewhere between cautiously sceptical and afraid for their lives when I announced I would be cooking lunch for them.  With good reason, because they were my parents, and they have had the misfortune of knowing me for 35 years.  That’s 35 years, 2 burned down kitchens, 1 exploded microwave and precisely ZERO plates of delicious food.

The main course I chose was Poulet au Cidre Breton.  More cooking with butter and cream.  If there is one piece of advice I could give to anyone learning French cuisine (though you’d have to be pretty desperate to come to me for advice), it’s to always keep lots of butter and cream in your fridge.  At least a cow’s worth.  In fact, buy a herd of cows, it will probably turn out to be more economical.  This weekend alone, I went through a whole litre of cream.  How the French don’t die at 50 from clogged arteries I will never know.

You could almost hear the collective eyebrow raising with surprise as the first mouthfuls were tentatively taken.  I think I can say it was quite possibly the most delicious plate of food I have ever eaten.  Ever.  I think I even convinced my parents that I could cook.

Close your eyes and imagine a juicy, tender chicken breast with a rich and creamy cider sauce, a background hint of cognac, while packed with melt-in-the-mouth onions and apple.  Are your taste buds tickling?  Are you coming out in a cold sweat wondering how you can get some, STAT?  You should be; this is some seriously fine food.  If I could, I would eat it every day.  I would run away with it, get married, and set up our own little restaurant in a quaint English town in the countryside serving up nothing but more of it.  I really can’t rave about it enough.

Poulet Breton

Are you salivating yet?

I’ve seen recipes that chuck in chicken livers or lobster bisque or gizzards (oh dear, no thank you), but we have a saying “too many cooks spoil the broth“; simplest is best.  Having tasted this simple recipe, I really don’t know why you would want to try to make it more complex.  Simple though it is to prepare, it bursts with rich complexity; the tart sweet apples perfectly complementing the buttery sweet onions and the chicken transformed with just a splash of cognac.

Cook it for your parents and make them realise that these past 35 years have not been in vain.  Cook it for your friends over a couple of bottles of white wine and have a fun night in.  Cook it for your date and have an even more fun night in (gentlemen take note: nutmeg is female viagra… but be careful: in too high doses it is a hallucinogen, which might ruin the mood somewhat).  So when I said the last chicken dish was the best chicken dish ever?  Well, pretend I didn’t, because this time I really mean it.

Need This (for 2)

2 chicken breast fillets / 2/3rds golden type apple / 1 large onion / 3 knobs of butter / 160ml traditional apple cider / 10ml cognac / 80ml double cream / pinch ground nutmeg / salt & pepper / (2 medium potatoes / 1tsp dried parsley / sunflower oil – or you can buy packs of diced potatoes with herby butter in most supermarkets)

Do This

For the potatoes: Fan oven 180C / Melt 1 knob butter and parsley in pan / Sunflower oil in 2nd pan, add peeled and cubed potatoes 5-10 mins / Mix together, on baking tray / Oven 30 mins
For the chicken: Melt 1 knob butter in pan / Finely slice onions & cube apple / Add to butter until golden / 1 knob butter in large pan / Pour in cognac / Brown chicken breasts on each side / Add onions & apple / Pour cider over, add nutmeg & season / Simmer uncovered until 2/3rds of cider evaporated (about 30 mins) / Remove chicken / Pour cream into cider sauce with a pinch of plain flour / Stir until thickened / Pour over chicken on plate and serve with potatoes