6.16.2010

That's the Way the Chicken Crumbles!


As I write this, the market day in Cucuron, Provence, is just winding down.  The vendors will soon be returning home happily with a lighter load following the parade of marketers who have been coming for their produce and wares since the early morning hours. Cucuron has one of the most aesthetic market sites I have ever seen – the market wraps around a large reflecting pool centered in town, much the way New England towns have a green or common.  It was at this market that Mark and I, along with friends Susan and Towny, bought the most succulent rotisserie chickens I have ever eaten.  In addition to a great disparity in flavor and quality between these Provençal beauties and those from your local Safeway, there is also a huge psychological difference between buying one at at an outdoor Provençal market and popping into your local American grocer under buzzing florescent lights.  There, each freshly-roasted chicken is lovingly prepared, seasoned, roasted and then – when sold – wrapped as if it were a gift.  And, truthfully, it is a gift. 


We were in Provence for my 50th birthday two years ago, visiting Susan and Towny in their beautiful home in Lourmarin, Provence.  I loved our daily rhythm.  Mark and I started the day with a fresh croissant or baguette (and butter!) with our hot cocoa.  We would then join our friends and their daughter for the day's adventure.  This always began with a visit to the marché du jour.  Monday's was in Cadenet, Tuesday's in Cucuron, Wednesday's at Roussillon, and so on.  After  shopping, we woudl fortify ourselves at a market cafe and then head on to our midday focus: lunch.  In some ways, this meal was the main event of the day.  We would seek out a restaurant and, after three or four languorous hours (and several bottles of rosé), we would meander to our cultural destination – le Pont du Gard, l'Abbaye de Sénanque, the corkscrew museum, etc.  We knew that these places, flooded with tourists, should have been our daily foci, but the food and wine of Provence are so exquisite (and we are such food-driven folk) that all sights were forever set on the next meal.  We enjoyed everything we saw during those bright, sunlit afternoons – Provence is one of the most beautiful parts of the world.  After each day of adventuring, we headed back towards home as the golden afternoon light gently shifted to rake the fields of sunflowers that seemed to spread from horizon to horizon. 

Back at the house, myriad nibbles emerged from our market bags – sausages (really, donkey sausage?!?!), cheese, olives, fruits and breads.  Wine flowed freely and friends from town would stop in for a taste and a tipple.  In time, we would gather in one kitchen or the other (the two houses abutted) and dinner preparations commenced.  At some point – very near the beginning of the next day – great quantities of good food had been prepared, cooked, and eaten by candlelight at a leisurely pace in the courtyard under the indigo sky. With the kitchens cleaned up and lights out, each of us dreamt of the next day's adventure.


One evening, we were invited to join friends Pierre and Muriel at their home for a simple supper.  They used to run a cafe/bookstore next door, so they were well-known to our hosts.  Muriel prepared an incredible Crumble au Poulet – or Chicken Crumble – to our gastronomic delight.  To us, crumbles were always grandmotherly desserts made with rhubarb, blueberries or peaches.  But in France, and perhaps especially in Provence, the fashion was to make savory crumbles.  Muriel shared her recipe, which involved "a little of this" and "a little of that."  But the main ingredient was the beautiful rotisserie chicken from the market at Cucuron.  I made this recipe for the first time this weekend.  Why did I wait so long?  For the perfect casserole dish, of course!  This one pictured was commissioned of my friend Lila with this crumble in mind.  I hope you enjoy the recipe; for me, it was a quick trip back Provence with our friends and to Pierre and Muriel's rooftop terrace ... with a few market visits en route...   Bon appétit!

– David
 
Crumble au Poulet

1 whole rotisserie chicken (homemade or purchased)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely minced
3 medium zucchini
4 large carrots
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup flour
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 cup coarsely grated Asiago cheese
1/4 teaspoon curry powder or other spice mixture, or to taste
10 tablespoons unsalted butter

Remove butter from the refrigerator.  Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Remove the skin from the chicken, remove the meat form the bones and dice the chicken meat.

Wash and dry zucchini, and peel the carrots.  Grate both vegetables on the coarse side of a box grater, but do not grate the seedy center of the zucchini.  You should have an equal quantity of both.

Sauté the shallot for a few minutes in the olive oil until clear but not brown.  Add the vegetables and sauté a few minutes longer.  Add the chicken and mix well.  Add the broth and simmer to reduce until almost all liquid is gone.  Place filling in a casserole.

In a large bowl, blend the flour, bread crumbs, grated cheese and spice mixture with your hands.  Then with your fingertips, mix in the somewhat softened butter; the mixture should be somewhat crumbly.  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the vegetable and chicken mixture and bake for about 35 minutes or until the crumble is golden.  May be served hot or at room temperature.  Serves 6.

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful memories of Provence... and the recipe so very French and summery. Lovely!
    Magda

    ReplyDelete
  2. Merci! Provence is an incredibly special place - I can never decide between there and Tuscany as a favorite place to be - good food, unending beauty, warm and friendly people. Maybe I will just keep them BOTH as favorites... David

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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