French Cooking Friday: Watercress Velouté, Chicken Confit & Bugnes
I promised a double feature to officially kick off the French Food series and I intend to deliver! There is a classic dish in the second spring menu I'm sure most people have heard of: confit. I never personally had the pleasure of enjoying confit of any kind nor have I made it. This menu is another example of the hands-off cooking of French cuisine. It's also the first menu to push me outside of my comfort zone and the first menu with something that I messed up. It certainly won't be the last though.
STARTER: Watercress Velouté
I'm a huge fan of soups but the velouté, made with leafy greens, was not something I'd normally volunteer to eat. Made with watercress, a super-packed nutritional veggie, this recipe was simple to prepare and whipped up real quick. It was light, flavorful and surprisingly satisfying. The end result had a tab of butter melted in for a little decadence, a spoonful of crème fraîche on top and chives for the final touch. What looked like a disgusting health nut smoothie in a bowl was actually a creamy, delicious, light soup.
MAIN COURSE: Duck (Chicken) Confit Parmentier
Parmentier is essentially French for Shepherd's Pie. It's a meat dish topped with potatoes. This course had two parts involved. Before making the parmentier, I had to make the confit. There are many types of confit (pronounced "con-fee") but most popular are canard (duck) or poulet (chicken). It's meat that is slowly cooked in its own fat and often preserved. It was a way for people to elongate the life of meat without it spoiling before we had this amazing thing called a refrigerator. Duck is naturally more tender and greasy compared to chicken so it works well for confit but thanks to my notorious luck, I was able to find everything but duck legs in the grocery store. I even found a frozen duck confit meal, a frozen whole duck but no duck legs. So instead, I substituted chicken. Confit takes overnight and a few hours slow cooking on the stove to make. To give you an idea of the timeline, I started cooking this dish about 36 hours before I planned to serve it.
Once the chicken confit was complete, I assembled the Parmentier. It's a simple dish with a few basic ingredients and not much labor. The meat filling was tender and packed with flavor - the potatoes crispy on top, soft in the middle and perfectly creamy. The meat filling was cooked briefly in red wine which took the flavors over the edge. It was a comforting dish that did not disappoint. The next time I'm in France, I will be searching menus for "confit" and "parmentier." I'll take them separate or together!
DESSERT: Bugnes with Orange Flower Water
Sometimes I'm embarrassed to admit when I screw up but then I remember no one's perfect and they often lead to good laughs. I was excited for the Bugnes. They look absolutely delicious in the photo and are essentially fried dough. Who doesn't love fried dough? It's a very simple recipe with a hint of rum and lemon for a surprising flavor combination. Everything was going well until it was time to start cutting the cookies and frying them. They were completely plastered to the counter! They didn't retain their form at all because the dough was too wet. I'm not sure where I went wrong but if I make these again, I'm adding at least an extra half cup of flour. Refusing to let this perfectly tasty dough go to waste, I rolled it into balls instead and fried them like donuts. I can't provide you with perfectly shaped bugnes but I can tell you that they were delicious. Light, tasty and so soft. It was light eating pillows.
This meal was the perfect combination of light and comforting. I absolutely loved everything, especially the chicken confit. It fell off the bone. I've never had such juicy, flavorful chicken. The Bugnes, although disappointing in shape, were a house favorite for us. I dare you to restrain yourself from eating just two or three. Before you know it the whole batch will be gone. So tell me, are you thinking of looking into A Kitchen In France? Do any of the dishes from the first menu or this menu look interesting to you?