Skip to main content

Poulet à la Normande #FoodieReads

I have a few Peter Mayle books on my bookshelf. Last February, we read A Year in Provençe as a #Winophiles' tie in; you can read my post A Book, An Inspired Braise, and A (Surprise!) Bottle of Redfrom Provençe. And Chasing Cezanne was a Fun, Fluffy French Caper. So, when I was looking for something easy to read last weekend, I picked up French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle*.

 On the Page

In French Lessons, Mayle offers readers a quirky food and wine map of France as he traipses around the country in search of culinary adventures. He attends the annual messe des truffes in Richerenches; that's a Sunday mass to celebrate the black truffle. He goes to Bourg-en-Bresse to join in the annual celebration known as Les Glorieuses where they honor and feast on the blue-footed Bresse chicken. In the chapter "Undressing for Lunch", he visits a famed clothing-optional beachside café in St. Tropez. And he is initiated into a brotherhood of frog leg tasters at an esteemed ceremony in Vittel. 

In the 'I fell in love with France' genre of books, Mayle is a master. But, what sets him apart, in my mind, is his oft irreverent, wry observations. He can ferret out a story and paint a vivid picture of a the players; and though you can tell he's a devoted Francophiles, you also sense that he's fair in his assessments of the country, the countrymen, and their food. I find his books immensely entertaining and enjoyable.

On the Plate

Admittedly, Poulet à la Normande isn't a dish that Mayle mentions in French Lessons. But in the chapter entitled "Love at First Sniff" - when he's recounting a stay in Livarot - he mentions Calvados.

"'Now what you need is a little Calvados, to settle the digestion.' Sadler whose ears are as highly tuned and sensitive as a bat's to certain stimuli, had heard the magic word. His digestion (that poor long-suffering process) would also be greatly improved, he said, by a nightcap. As he pointed out, the Normans invented Calvados. ...sitting around the kitchen table in a house belonging to a hospitable member of the organizing committee. A dark, anonymous bottle was produced. ...with a bouquet that brought teas to the eyes, a roundness that filled the mouth, a smooth warmth that spread from throat to stomach. 'Internal sunshine,' they call it" (pg 96).

Calvados is something I have on the shelf, but never really know what to do with it. So, I decided to search for recipes that include Calvados and came across this classic braise from northern France. Now, my version might not be completely tradition, but it was tasty. The ventrèche is my own addition and I went with whole onions, cubed, instead of pearl onions.

Let me start by saying that flambéing is always fun albeit a little challenging to photograph when you're alone and trying to not set yourself aflame. This dish brings together the autumn flavors of sweet apples, yeasty cider, cream, and chicken. It's not the blue-footed kind of chicken, but this was a tasty dinner in the middle of a busy week. I had it on the table when my family walked in from a long robotics meeting.

Ingredients serves 4
  • 5 or 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 T olive oil, duck fat, or chicken fat (I had duck fat)
  • ½ C cubed ventrèche (this is akin to a French pancetta, substitute Italian pancetta or bacon if you can't find ventrèche)
  • 2 organic onions, peeled and cubed
  • 4 large apples, peeled, cored, and thickly sliced (I used gala apples because they hold their shape)
  • ½ C Calvados (apple brandy)
  • 1 ¼ C hard cider (I used an unfiltered local brand)
  • 5 T crème fraîche or buttermilk

Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the fat in a large Dutch oven or deep skillet (I used my Le Creuset braiser) over medium heat until shimmering. Place the chicken, skin-side down, and cook until a deep golden, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Flip and sear the other side until golden, approximately another 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, leaving the rendered fat in the bottom.

Add the ventrèche to the pan and cook until the fat is rendered and the pieces browned. Add in the onions and apples and stir to coat with the fat. Nestle the chicken thighs on top of the apples and onions.

Pour the Calvados in a small saucepan and heat gently. When it begins to steam, use a stick lighter or long match to ignite it. While it's burning, pour the Calvados over the chicken and let it burn out. It might take a minute or two before the alcohol burns off and the flames subside.

Pour the cider over the dish and bring it to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

If the sauce is thick enough for your liking, simply drizzle the chicken with the crème fraîche or buttermilk. If you prefer it thicker, turn up the heat and let the sauce reduce.

Serve the dish immediately. I offered mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, and green salad on the side.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Click to see what everyone else read in February 2020: here.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Jamaican Stew Peas #EattheWorld

  Here we are at November #EattheWorld event. What a year this has been! This challenge has been one that gave us some excuse for virtual travel as we've been sheltered-in-place with the coronavirus epidemic for most of 2020. So, we've been able to read about different parts of the world and create a dinner, or at least a dish, with that cuisine. This Eat the World project is spearheaded by Evelyne of  CulturEatz . Read more about  her challenge . This month, Evelyne had us heading to somewhere tropical: Jamaica. I have actually been to Jamaica, but it was almost thirty years ago...and it was just a jumping off point for the rest of our Caribbean exploration. I don't remember eating anything at all! Pandemonium Noshery: Pumpkin Rice   Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Jamaican Stew Peas  Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Jamaican Chicken & Pumpkin Soup   Palatable Pastime: Jamaican Jerk Chicken Burger   Sneha’s Recipe: Jamaican Saucy Jerk Chicken Wings With Homemade Jerk Seas

Lamskoteletten op zijn oud-Hollands for #TheBookClubCookbookCC

Here we are at April's #thebookclubcookbookCC event. It's hard to believe that we only have three more months in this year-long journey to explore - and cook from -  The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors  by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp.* Judy, Vicki, and their publisher,  Tarcher-Penguin ,  have provided the hosting bloggers with copies of the book plus copies to giveaway each month of the project. Woohoo. Incredibly generous. This month Sarah at  Things I Make (for Dinner)  has selected  Girl With a Pearl Earring  by Tracy Chevalier.** Click to read  Sarah's invitation . She shared the recipe for Griet's Vegetable Soup, but invited us to find inspiration in any of the pages. On the Page... While the boys were playing around the lake during our week in Tahoe earlier in the month, I stayed by the fire and finished this book in one sitting. Loved it. photo by R

Pistachio Dukkah for #HandCraftedEdibles

In an effort to make all of my holiday gifts this year, we are sharing recipes for hand-crafted edibles. Over the course of twelve weeks, we'll be sharing recipes that you can make at home to give to friends and loved ones, or things to serve at holiday parties. We hope you'll follow along for inspiration. You can find out more information, including the schedule:  here . This week, we are "going nuts" and sharing all sorts of recipes with nuts. Think spiced nuts or nutty fruit cake or whatever floats your nutty boat! Here's what we're posting this week... Amy's Cooking Adventures  shared her Salted Chocolate Cashew Butter Cookaholic Wife  cooked up Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds Making Miracles  made Honey Roasted Almonds Christmas Tree Lane  posted Crockpot Spiced Nuts A Day in the Life on the Farm  wrote about the Easiest Nut Brittle in the World Sew You Think You Can Cook  prepared Orange Rosemary Roasted Almonds Culinary Adventur