Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Mémé Gagny"



WE were so used to call her this way that sometimes I almost forget her first name: Marguerite. My maternal grandmother was form the French province of Bresse, in Eastern France, part of the region of Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne, and Franche-Comté. La Bresse is especially renowned for its poultry, especially its chicken,1,200,000 chickens per year which are raised primarily outdoors with a minimum of 10 square meters per bird.The chickens of La Bresse were the first animals to have an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. Bresse chickens are noted as the best for quality chicken for cooking. Which is why the recipe I'll share with you today is a chicken recipe in Bresse fashion, directly from Mémé's cookbook, that I brought with me from France,as 1 of of my most precious possessions. That cookbook was transmitted to my mother, who in her turn gave it to me shortly before she died, and when I grow old, I'll pass it along to my daughter. It is, as you'll see on the picture, antique - 1932 edition of "Je sais cuisiner" (I know how to cook)-
Marguerite was born somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century, to be left orphan at a very early age, so she spent the rest of her childhood working hard in farms.
At some point in her life she got the opportunity to travel to Tunisia, then still a French colony, where she met my grandpa, then a French army soldier there.
They got married, had 2 children, my Mom and my uncle Yoyo. They went through 2 world wars, and grandpa was a resistant in WWII. I think they were a happy couple. At some point they left the countryside of Bresse to move "up" to Paris, to allow my mom to attend an Art school. There my grandma became a dresser at the Théâtre du Chatelet for the Ballet dancers. That's where her picture here was taken.
With her husband they saved all their life and managed to purchase a "pavillon" in the suburbs of Paris, at a time when the suburbs were quiet and quaint. It was a two storey house, and we would go visit them on Sundays, they had a large garden where they grew all sorts of food and herbs, for Mémé, having been through two wars, was not a person to waste anything, and oh, boy, what a treat it was to play in that garden, get some berries, and Oh! the meals she cooked! And the pies!
She was a very sweet lady who had worked hard all her life, and today I'm going to share with you one of the precious recipes from her cookbook:
Poulet à la crème.
Prep time: 25mns. Cooking: 1H15mns
Ingredients:
1.3Kg whole chicken
125 gr white mushrooms
60 gr butter
30 gr flour
1/2 liter of thick cream or crème fraiche
Chicken stock
Put 40 gr of butter in a casserole dish,brown the chicken. Salt, add chicken stock and simmer 930mns per pound). After 55 mns of cooking, add the mushrooms previously washed and cut.
Prepare a "roux blanc" (roux): 1 cup butter, 1 cup flour. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, then add flour. Mix well and cook to desired color, stirring constantly to prevent burning. This takes about 10mns but may well take up to twenty minutes.
Add the cream. Season.
Add the cooking juice from the chicken.
Cut the chicken, place the pieces in crown shape on a dish, and coat with the sauce.
There are regional variations to this recipe.
Have fun!

2 comments:

Elisabetta said...
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Elisabetta said...

Great family picture! I am wondering if I can adapt your recipe using Tofu instead a poor unhealthy mass produced American chicken...