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PATRICIA WELLS AT HOME IN PROVENCE: Recipes Inspired By Her Farmhouse In France

PATRICIA WELLS AT HOME IN PROVENCE: Recipes Inspired By Her Farmhouse In France

By  Patricia Wells

Publisher  Scribner

ISBN  9780684863283

Published in  Home & Garden

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Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Herbs

At the end of summer when plum tomatoes are still in abundance in our garden and the days are growing cooler, this flavorful soup is perfect. The process of roasting the tomatoes is the same one used to prepare homemade sun-dried tomatoes, yet the tomatoes are baked in a slightly hotter oven and not nearly as long. What you're looking for is similar to what the French call a confit, an intensely flavored, reduced essence of tomato. (Yet unlike the true tomato confit, these tomatoes are baked with all their pulp and seeds, making for a less dense, more juicy flavor.) This soup is an ideal gift for anyone who gardens and grows tomatoes.

EQUIPMENT: A food mill

2 pounds (1 kg) fresh plum tomatoes (Roma)

Fine sea salt to taste

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herb leaves, such as a mix of summer savory, basil, parsley, and thyme

About 1 quart (1l) homemade Chicken Stock (page 327) or Potager Stock (page 325)

1. Preheat the oven to 275°f (135°c; gas mark 2).

2. Trim and discard the stem end of the tomatoes. Halve each tomato lengthwise. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking sheet side by side. Sprinkle lightly with salt and about half the herbs.

3. Place in the oven and bake until the tomatoes are nearly dried and shriveled, about 2 hours. Check the tomatoes from time to time. They should still be rather flexible but not at all brittle, and most of their juice should have baked away.

4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Place a food mill (fitted with its coarsest blade) over a large bowl. Transfer the tomatoes to the food mill and puree.

5. Meanwhile, pour the stock into a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tomatoes and stir to blend. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle. Taste for seasoning. Serve in warmed shallow soup bowls and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Copyright © 1996 by Patricia Wells

Poulet Aux Fines Herbes:

Butter-roasted Herbed Chicken

Every time I roast a chicken, I learn something new. Perhaps my greatest "training" came when I was taught the following "rotation" method by chef Joël Robuchon. Roasting the bird on both sides, then breast side up, then finally breast side down, results in a bird that is evenly, uniformly browned and roasted. I've also added a final step: roasting it breast side down at the end, tail in the air, so the juices begin to run to the breast even as it is still roasting. I also find that the bird roasts more evenly if it is set on a rack in the roasting pan, allowing the heat to circulate around the chicken.

In this recipe I've given the breast -- which tends to dry out in roasting -- a protective coating of butter, which is slipped beneath the skin with the fingers, creating a stunning presentation and a very moist chicken. Basting is not necessary here; in fact, the chicken skin will be crisper if you do not baste at all. This is a good picnic bird, for the dish is truly wonderful served the next day at room temperature.

EQUIPMENT: One oval baking dish, just slightly larger than the chicken (about 9 x 13 inches; 23 x 33 cm), fitted with a roasting rack

1 lemon, preferably organic

1 free-range roasting chicken (about 5 pounds; 2.5 kg), with giblets

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 bunch of fresh thyme

5 tablespoons very finely minced fresh herbs, carefully stemmed, preferably a mix of chervil, tarragon, chives, and parsley

5 tablespoons (2H ounces; 75 g) unsalted butter, softened

1. Preheat the oven to 425°f (220°c; gas mark 7/8) (see Note).

2. Rinse the lemon in cold water and dry. Soften the lemon by rolling it back and forth along a flat surface. Using a two-pronged fork, a trussing needle, or a toothpick, pierce the skin of the lemon at least 20 times, to help the lemon release its juices during roasting. Generously season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the giblets, lemon, and thyme in the cavity and truss.

3. In a small bowl, combine the herbs, H teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) butter. Mash with fork and blend evenly.

4. Before putting the butter beneath the skin of the chicken be sure to remove any rings from your fingers, for they might pierce the skin. Entering from the neck end of the chicken, push your fingers through the skin over one side of the breast to separate the skin from the flesh. Be gentle so as not to tear the skin. Working with the tips of your fingers, spread half of the butter and herb mixture over one side of the breast meat. Repeat the same process on the other breast side. Pressing down on the exterior of the skin, even out the butter mixture and pat the skin back into place. Rub the skin of the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Season all over with salt and pepper.

5. Place the chicken on its side on the roasting rack in the baking dish. Place in the center of the oven and roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken to the other side and roast for 20 minutes more. Turn the chicken breast side up, and roast for 20 minutes more, for a total of 1 hour roasting time. By this time the skin should be a deep golden color. Lower the heat to 375°f (190°c; gas mark 5). Turn the chicken breast side down, at an angle if at all possible, with the neck down and the tail in the air. (This heightens the flavor by allowing the juices to flow down through the breast meat.) Roast until the juices run clear when you pierce a thigh with a skewer, about 15 minutes more.

6. Remove from the oven and season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken to a platter and place on an angle against the edge of an overturned plate, with the neck down and the tail in the air. Cover loosely with foil. Turn off the oven and place the platter in the oven, with the door open. Let rest a minimum of 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. The chicken will continue to cook during this resting time.

7. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Place the baking dish over moderate heat, scraping up any bits that cling to the bottom. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping and stirring until the liquid is almost caramelized. Do not let it burn. Spoon off and discard any excess fat. Add several tablespoons of cold water to deglaze (hot water will cloud the sauce). Bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

8. While the sauce is cooking, carve the chicken and place on a warmed platter.

9. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve and pour into a sauce boat. Serve immediately with the chicken. (If serving the chicken at room temperature, use the sauce to prepare a vinaigrette for an accompanying salad.)

four to six servings

WINE SUGGESTION: A dry white or a fine old red are perfectly at home here. My choice is a good Burgundy, such as a silky Volnay.

NOTE: When you don't have time to wait for your oven to warm up, try the cold oven method. Turn the oven to 425°f (220°c; gas mark 7/8) and follow the recipe, allowing about 15 additional minutes of roasting time. Since some ovens heat up more quickly than others, roasting time may vary.

HOW'S YOUR HERB AWARENESS? A little quiz to test your herb awareness: Do you know the difference between herbes de Provence and fines herbes? Herbes de Provence is usually a mixture of dried fennel, rosemary, sage, savory, and wild or domestic thyme. Fines herbes are composed of fresh chervil, tarragon, chives, and parsley.

Copyright © 1996 by Patricia Wells

(Continues...)

Excerpted from "PATRICIA WELLS AT HOME IN PROVENCE: Recipes Inspired By Her Farmhouse In France" by Patricia Wells. Copyright © 1999 by Patricia Wells. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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