In the short story ‘Simon’s Luck’ by Alice Munro, a woman, Rose, goes to the grocery store to stock up before a guest arrives:
“You must’ve brought home company,” said the woman who kept the store. She spoke with no surprise or malice or censure, just a comradely sort of envy.
“When I wasn’t expecting it.” Rose dumped more groceries on the counter. […] “Look at that bacon. And cream.”
“I could stand a bit of it,” the woman said.
What’s this then? You mean not everyone includes bacon and cream as part of their weekly shop? I never considered them to be foods reserved only for guests, since they’re pretty much staples in my fridge. Still, when I have company, I do tend to pull out all the stops at the grocery store, like Rose, and all my recent entertaining meant there was plenty of bacon and cream to go around.
This is my go-to menu if we have company for dinner. The great thing about it is that you can prepare the chicken, then bang it into the oven to happily cook for an hour, giving you plenty of time to clean up the kitchen before your guests arrive, plus visit with them before dinner. The roast potatoes can cook in the hot oven along with the chicken and the Baileys cream pots can be made up to a day ahead, so all you have to do is prep the green beans ahead of time, then boil them when you’re just about ready to sit down to eat. I know chicken braised with chicory and crème fraîche might not sound like much on paper, but I think everyone I’ve ever served this to has asked for the recipe afterward, with some friends stopping just short of licking their plates. But don’t wait for company to come over to make this — it’s a great meal for any weekend when you have a bit of extra time to cook (and when you can lick the plate with no one watching).
Chicken Braised with Chicory and Crème Fraîche
adapted from Real Food by Nigel Slater
Don’t worry if you can’t get chicory, I make this without it more often than not and it’s still fantastic.
3 tablespoons groundnut oil
a thick slice of butter
4 chicken breasts
4 heads of chicory, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup (175 ml) medium-dry white wine
1 cup (240 ml) crème fraîche
a few sprigs of parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Heat the groundnut oil with the butter in a large, deep, heavy casserole, ideally one to which you have a lid, on the stove top. When the butter starts to bubble, carefully put in the chicken (in 2 batches if you need to) and cook them until they’re golden brown on each side. Try not to move them too often, that way you’ll get a nice brown crust on the skin.
Lift the chicken out of the pan and set aside. On no account get rid of the sticky bits on the bottom of the pan, that’s where much of the flavor is. Put the chicory in the dish, then season with the sugar and some salt and pepper. Let it cook over a moderate heat until the outside leaves start to caramelize and darken and soften, about 5 minutes. (If you’re not using the chicory, add the sugar, salt and pepper along with the shallots and lemon juice in the next step.)
Add the shallots and lemon juice, then return the chicken to the pan. Pour over the wine and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the wine and cooking juices have reduced a bit. Spoon in the crème fraîche, season with salt and pepper and stir as best you can so that the juices mingle with the cream. Cover with a lid (or just tightly with aluminum foil) and put in the oven for about 1 hour. Move the pieces of chicken and chicory around halfway through cooking.
After 1 hour, lift the chicken and chicory out of the sauce with a draining spoon and put on the plates. Add the parsley to the sauce in the pan, give it a bit of a stir, then pour the sauce over the chicken. (If the sauce is too thin, simmer it on the stove top for a few minutes until it thickens.)
Green Beans with Lemon Juice, Sea Salt and Olive Oil
adapted from Rachel’s Favourite Food by Rachel Allen
Serves 4 to 6
Not only is this good hot, served with fish or chicken, but it’s also great served at room temperature. You can also use it as a base for a fresh, light salad –- add thinly sliced red onions, some cannellini beans or chickpeas (drained from the can), canned tuna and crumbled feta cheese for a fabulous and nutritious packed lunch or summer supper (also good in a pitta bread).
1 level teaspoon salt
1 lb 2 oz (500 g) green beans
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Top and tail the beans and cut in half at an angle, if you wish. Add to the boiling water and put the lid back on until the water comes back to the boil. As soon as it does, take the lid off to keep the beans’ bright green color and continue to cook on a high heat until the beans are just cooked, but still have a bit of bite. Drain and immediately add the olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt and pepper to taste. You must dress the beans while hot so that they soak up the fresh citrus flavor.
Bailey’s Cream Pots
from Full on Irish by Kevin Dundon
1 1/4 cup (300 ml) cream
4 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly brewed espresso, cooled (or very strong coffee)
9 oz (250 g) mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
chocolate curls (optional)
cocoa powder (optional)
Whip the cream in a bowl until soft peaks have formed. Place the Baileys in a separate bowl with the coffee, mascarpone and icing sugar. Beat until well combined, then fold in the cream. Divide between four ramekins or small cups and chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
To serve, arrange the Baileys pots on serving plates and decorate with chocolate curls. Add the shortbread on the side and lightly dust with icing sugar and cocoa powder.