Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fast and French

French food, for most people, conjures up hours in the kitchen, striving for perfection of sauces and presentation. Not so for Jacques Pépin, born and kitchen-trained in France. He wrote "Fast Food My Way" (Houghton Mifflin, $30, 250 pages) five years ago, and although it's not a beginner's cookbook (there are no notes on basic cooking techniques), most of the recipes are, as promised, fast - which translates as uncomplicated and straightforward. Pépin also has included many menus, which is a great help in balancing out a meal.
It's a small book, but has lovely and inviting photographs by Ben Fink, all in bounce-off-the-page color.
The cookbook has a wealth of vegetable recipes and salads, and a few recipes for most kinds of seafood and meats. A substantial dessert section includes a tiramisu that is not unlike the one I hit upon when assembling one for a dinner for 100, and I'm sure it is just as delicious.
The recipe I used last night was definitely a winner: chicken breasts with garlic and parsley. Pépin says he adapted the idea from a traditional French way of cooking frog legs. Well, if he can adapt, so can I. I didn't have parsley, but my basil is loving this cool, wet weather, and I love the way it works with garlic and lemon.

Fast chicken breasts with garlic and basil
(adapted from "Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way")

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (organic preferred; each about 7 ounces, cut into 1-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons rice flour (Pépin=Wondra)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (Pépin=parsley)
1 tablespoon butter (Pépin=2 tablespoons unsalted)
1 lemon, quartered

Dry the chicken cubes with paper towels and toss them with the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet until very hot but not smoking. Add the chicken cubes and cook in one layer turning occasionally, for about 3 1/2 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Add the butter and the parsley mixture to the skillet and sauté for 1 minute longer, shaking the skillet occasionally to coat the chicken. Divide among 4 plates, add a wedge of lemon to each plate and serve within 15 minutes.

Editor's note: Want this cookbook? Click on the photo or the name of the book to go to Powell's Books; it's $21 there.

No comments:

Post a Comment