win some – lose some

summary: Win: rustic boule based on ‘Acme’s Rustic Baguettes’ in “Artisan Baking Across America” by Maggie Glezer is stellar. Lose: Ina Garten’s ‘Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic’.

We recently saw Ina Garten make 40 garlic clove chicken on FoodTV and decided we HAD to try it. For the starch, she suggested couscous with toasted pinenuts and currants but we decided that a crusty loaf of bread would be better. Don’t get me wrong. We love couscous. But it just didn’t seem like the right thing to show off the rich chicken. And we chose steamed broccoli as our vegetable.

I made rustic boule – my take on the recipe for Acme’s Rustic Baguettes in Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer. I don’t know what has happened recently but I seem to have jumped up one level in my bread-making. I have to say it. The bread was stellar.

The broccoli was good too. Nice and sweet.

And the chicken? One word: disappointing. It wasn’t that it was bad. It was definitely edible. But it wasn’t thrilling. Just plain. And so sad, because the ingredients that went into it were really good ingredients – rich stock from our freezer, decent South American Sauvignon Blanc, good cognac, good garlic and plenty of it, etc. etc. We were so sure it was going to be stellar that we made enough for two dinners.

Hmmm, I wonder if adding a few toasted pecans might rescue it….

Please excuse the sporadic posting and connection difficulties. My web host is fixing some problems with php and sql, both of which are required for this blog to run.. I’m hoping it will be fixed soon….

8 responses to “win some – lose some

  1. bing

    It does look like it should be tasty. But she does have this warning at the end “Add salt and pepper, to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland.”

    “I tablespoon of butter”? I’ve seen her add “a tablespoon” of butter on the show – more like a quarter of a cup. I bet she uses more than 2 tablespoons of cream, too.

    The bread sounds great. I love the way the recipe uses the word “ferment” several times. I’ve never heard of the term “scrap dough” before.

  2. mats

    The “failure” of the chicken made me curious so I had a glance at the recipe (I never realized that the “extra butter, cream, and fat of any kind” woman was called Ina Garten (bad pun?)). So, it seems to me that this is chicken bonne femme. I’ve never tried braising chicken, but I think the breast part should be left out; i.e. use just thighs and legs. Since the meat has relatively little flavour (aside from the browned skin), I would add more herbs than just the thyme and use dry white vermouth instead of the wine/cognac combo. Lastly, why blanch the garlic? Just my thoughts.

  3. ejm Post author

    As it happens, we used thighs, skin off. (Skinless thighs have never failed before.) And we added onions. And we didn’t blanch the garlic. Amazingly, the dish wasn’t all that garlicky. While you may be right that vermouth is the way to go rather than white wine and cognac, I have to say that we aren’t going to rush out to try improving this dish too soon.

    We finished it last night – added a few toasted spicy cashews to up the flavour. Once again, the dinner was entirely edible but not outstanding. We realized this morning that we should have added a bunch of Indian spices to turn it into butter chicken…

  4. mats

    Words are cheap. I just finished describing how I thought “In a Garden’s” recipe could be improved; I was speculating. So, to see if I was just blowing smoke, tried it. The results were good.But, it revealed something about me. After cooking Indian and Sichuan, the vague flavours just won’t do. More flavour!!!

  5. CAM

    I have sometimes watched Ina Garten’s program and enjoyed it. But I don’t recall being attracted to her recipes or menus. I find her menus to be quite low on vegetables and pretty high on bread, pastas, fats and her recipes tend to sound fairly bland. I wonder if the couscous with pinenuts and currants might have added more flavour to the meal. I find chicken dishes need either strong-tasting sauces or strong-tasting accompaniments.

  6. ejm Post author

    What I found odd about this is that we have had great success with really simple flavourings. We love Asian food and lots of spices but sometimes we like things with fewer spices. This summer we have often had grilled pork chops – salt pepper and garlic only – with roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables. The dinners have been brilliant and full of flavour.

    And we thought we would have a similar experience with the garlic chicken. Very very strange.

    Maybe the couscous would have been better but I really don’t think so.

    And last night we had the most fabulous smoked chicken (Old Bay seasoning spice rub) Again, plenty of flavour there. Maybe it was the cream that flattened out the Ina Garten chicken dish.

  7. Amy

    “What I found odd about this is that we have had great success with really simple flavourings.”

    This is so true. I read a book recently about Tuscan cooking, and how most of the people who live in the mountains there eat simply, but it’s some of the best food around. Just a piece of crusty bread smeared with olive oil but it’s the BEST olive oil around, and that makes all the difference.

    Give me 2 or 3 ingredients–as long as they’re really stellar quality–over a long list anyday!!

  8. ejm Post author

    Yes!! Exactly what I meant, Amy. Just the other night at friends’ house we had crusty bread and olive oil. The oil had come from THEIR Italian friends’ olive tree and had the most amazing smoky minty hints in the wonderful olive oil flavour.

    The dinner was a very simple roast chicken – lemons, onions, salt and pepper. It was brilliant and absolutely full of flavour.

    The only thing I can think of that caused the Ina Garten chicken to be so disappointing is that the cream and butter softened the flavour of the garlic too much. I hesitate to suggest it but maybe it was too much fat? (No. Impossible!! There’s NEVER too much fat!!)

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