Monday, March 3, 2008

Notre Poule au Riz

In past posts, I've frequently mentioned my Italian voisin, Armando. It was with Armando and his family that we traveled to Italie and spent a whirlwind weekend on the gorgeous Italian coast the day after my birthday. I also mentioned the Perrones in the story about our Sunday promenade in February.

During the six months we have lived here, we have had a number of great meals at the Perrone home. Usually, we arrive to find both Armando and Odile in the kitchen. However, our most memorable meal to date was the Poule au Riz we enjoyed one recent Sunday, prepared solely by Odile. She is a very soft-spoken and kind woman. She dropped by earlier in the week to invite us to dinner and she asked me if I thought Emily would be “ok” with a vrai French poule dinner. People frequently ask me what Emily will eat in advance of dinners at their homes, so I thought nothing of it. Of course, Emily loves chicken.

Sunday arrived and we headed over at noon. The aroma in the house was heavenly. Odile explained that the key to the dinner was going to the nearby hen farm and asking for an old hen. A young hen won’t do for this recipe. The flavor and ultimate results will not be the same. An old hen will stand up to the two hours or so that the meal cooks.

She lifted the poule out of the pot and I managed to keep my mouth closed as it dawned on me why she had come by earlier in the week to see whether I thought it would bother Emily to have the meal. The old hen we were having for lunch still had her head, beak and legs attached. I’m glad she was old; I hope she had lived a good life. We found it fascinating, not at all disturbing. I have to say, it gave me a respect for the meal that I have not previously felt. I believe that we need to regain connection with the food we eat. Life in this small country village is giving us that connection. I am grateful for this opportunity.

The meal was memorable not only for the poule, but also for the wonderful sauce Odile prepared. She explained that although it had a lemon flavor, it was not a true béchamel, but was made in a lighter fashion, without crème. I am going to post the recipe, but because the notes she gave me are all in French, that post will occur at another time, as I have a couple of things I may have to discuss with Odile. I recall that clous de girofle does not have anything to do with nails, but refers to whole cloves and that fècule is starch, but I can’t remember, as I write this, what Odile meant by fècule de p-de-t.

You may rest assured that any time I see “ c à s” in a French recette I have come to understand that it means you need a soupspoon full of the ingredient, while “c à café” does not mean add a spoonful of coffee, but instead, use a coffee spoon to measure an ingredient! The way the French write their recipes is rather charming. Thus, I‘ve decided the best solution will be to scan and post her hand-written recipe with this story. Ahhh, it's coming back to me; p-de-t; of course, pomme de terre; use potato starch for the sauce! Rest assured, the translation will be worth the wait.

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