From the “France The Beautiful Cookbook”
“In Provence, where it is called the poor man’s truffle, garlic is the basis of the local cuisine. Braised en chemise (“in a shirt” – in other words, unpeeled), the garlic cloves become soft and creamy making a delicious puree that enhances the flavor of poultry.”
Two years ago Richard and I started a Gourmet Group with three other couples who love to cook as much as he does. We alternate houses. The host couple chooses the “theme,” makes the entree and assigns the remaining courses to the other couples. “Themes” have been as diverse as “white food below the Equator,” “a taste of Julia Childs,” and “Tuscany.” The last dinner was at our house. The theme – Provencal.
I staged the dining room table with antique white tea cloths layered on our old pine farm table, then piled some Richard’s freshly baked French baguettes next to a carved stone chicken rescued from our garden along with some sprigs of rosemary and voila!... a no cost centerpiece.
We greeted everyone with a champagne flute of “Pernod Moulin Rouge” (Pernod and cranberry juice), then enjoyed the “appetizer couple’s” dishes: baked trout with Provencal seasoning... goat cheese gratin of olives, cheeses and tomatoes… anchovy toasts with roasted garlic... white asparagus spears with a turnip and cumin dip... shrimp with a sauce verde of basil & spring onion. Their Parigot rose champagne complemented their dishes.
Edith Piaf wafted from the ipod as we took our seats in the dining room for the first course: a light salad made with heirloom tomatoes from the “first course couples” garden, grilled sweet peppers, melon, Buffala mozzarella and grilled shrimp with a pesto dressing drizzled on the side. The wine: E. Guigal Rose.
Then it was time for Richard’s roast chicken. Roast chicken for Gourmet Group!!?? Well, this was not just any ol’ roast chicken, but the traditional Provence dish of roast chicken with 40 cloves of garlic which he served with "Asparagus on Asparagus,” a Michel Richard recipe he found on the net. The cooked asparagus had an asparagus sauce topped with poached eggs and black truffles. We spread the creamy roasted garlic on toasted baguette slices made from the bread not used for the centerpiece. The wine was an amazing Pomerol bequeathed to us from wine-loving friends.
Dessert was next. First, the “dessert couple” served a cheese plate of Brillat-Savarin, a Laguiole, a port salut and a roquefort whipped with walnuts. The beverage: a Chateau Bernadou Muscat. Then came their spectacular flourless chocolate cake served with a Banyuls port.
To end our evening in Provence, we made a dark, rich coffee and served it in demitasse cups as everyone helped themselves to more cake.
It took me three days to clean up. Five dishwasher loads, over forty glasses washed by hand, linens spotted and laundered and a zillion plates and platters put away.
For a meal like that, I’d do it all over again tomorrow and I didn’t have to cook a thing!
The chicken with 40 cloves of garlic recipe can be found in “France The Beautiful Cookbook.”