September 19, 2004

(almost) champagne dinner: IMBB8

Sunday, September 19

It is time for another edition of Is My Blog Burning? (IMBB). I have been enjoying reading food bloggers' posts on past themes for this series of collective blogging event, and now it is its 8th edition and it is about time for me to actually joining in, not just reading - specially, if the theme is Lift your Spirits High!

Hosted by Donna in Harrisburg, the rule for this time around is to use wine or spirits as a central component of the recipe. Excellent idea, although raising one major problem; which one to choose? I seem to use wine and spirits a lot in cooking - red wine for boeuf bourguignon, white wine for beef in wine casserole, cider for porc au cidre, tequila & lime chicken, beef in Guinness, just to name a few (okay, cider and Guinness don't count as spirits).

Having too much to choose from, I have settled down with something that is a bit special and that I truly love: champagne. That said, I wasn't brave enough to use a nice bottle of real champagne in cooking, I actually used a bottle of Freixenet. Not a champagne, but still is a great sparkling wine.

I made "champagne" chicken casserole for this evening, based on a recipe from Trish Deseine's book mes petits plats preferes (2002, Marabout), one of my recent favorite and reliable recipe sources. The original recipe is called Poulet 8 a 8 (anyone knows why?) that is basically pot-roasted chicken with minced shallot in white wine. I have made this simple dish before using sparkling wine (really cheap kind) and it turned out okay, but this time I tried to enhance the flavor a bit more, by using a better wine and by adding in minced onion, leek, and celery (other than shallot) and mushroom quarters.

I sauted chicken thighs (half with bone and skin, half without) in olive oil and butter, added in the vegetable, seasoned it with sea salt (fleur de sel de Camargue this time) and pepper, and poured in Freixenet, and off it went to the oven. It can hardly be simpler.

It was smelling wonderful while cooking, and came out - looking not excactly gorgeous, but appetizing nevertheless.

And well, I didn't use real champagne in the cooking, but we did open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot that we had luckily found on sale in one of our neighborhood store (I haven't been able to buy champagne much over here - somehow they're a lot cheaper in Japan). We enjoyed a glass with some Chambord Liqueur, a nice twist to this moderately dry champagne. Too bad we don't have nice champagne glasses, but that's that.

I served the chicken with a few drops of creme fraiche as is suggested in the book, and that just worked incredibly well. The chicken was done perfect and tasted great on its own in a sauce with a rich aroma of sparkling wine and the mixture of vegetables, and the creme added the richness to it in another dimension. We were both impressed with how big difference in fact the wine made - the last one wasn't bad, but the better wine did make the dish better. I wonder if it would make a further improvement if using a real champagne - I guess it might, but I don't think I will be able to try to prove it anytime soon. This was for sure just great with Freixenet.

And, oh, dessert. Since I didn't make the chicken casserole in a full amount and didn't use up the whole bottle of wine, I had a bit of leftover. While I could have drunk it up, I instead made small dessert with it; "champagne" chiffon cake! (you might think we have had enough of chiffon cakes lately, but we haven't.) I used a yet another recipe (in Japanese), and this one has more eggs than most other chiffon cake recipes, and uses no baking powder - I think sparkling wine might help the leavening of cake.

Served with mint-infused panna cotta that I had made the night before (recipe (in Japanese)), the chiffon cake made a nice small dessert. The cake surprisingly reserved a distinctive aroma of the sparkling wine, while the panna cotta was almost overly flavored with fresh mint leaves - an interesting combination.


seine said...

Hello and aloha!:)
I have a did you get to be such a good cook? Your blog is so inspring..I hope you post more Japanese recipes too.
I also live in Hawaii, but on Oahu...but will sadly move in two weeks to San Diego...I will really miss all the local foods here...

Anonymous said...

Could there be anything better than champagne?! Outstanding!

chika said...

Hi there,

seine - thanks a lot, I will try to post more Japanese stuff - gosh, I make them so often but never even care about quantities and/or procedures!

Good luck with your moving houses, I hope you'll like the new town as much as you do in Hawaii!

Someone - Agreed, there's no such thing, better than champagne! :)