If there is someone in this life whom I would love to exchange places it would definitely have to be Patricia Wells. A well recognized author, restaurant critic and teacher since the late 1970s, Patricia Wells won the James Beard Award for Best International Cookbook for At Home In Provence published in 1996. Wells is the only American and the only woman to be a restaurant critic for a major French publication, L'Express (1988–1991). She was also a restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune from 1980 until 2007. She is married to Walter Wells, former editor in chief of the IHT and divides her time between Paris and Provence where she runs a wonderful cooking school. They have lived in France for the last 30 years.
photo Steven Rothfeld
Granted, Patricia Wells doesn't have the fame or the empire that Martha has created but as to quality of life...I wouldn't think for a minute!! Can you imagine getting up in the morning and having to review yet another Paris bistro, brasserie or gastronomic temple?! Or being best friends with Pierre Gagnaire and Joel Robouchon whose cuisine and cookbook she introduced in the United States? tant pis!
I know I have been writing a lot about chicken lately but somehow the cold weather and chicken seem to go hand in hand. I've been thinking about morels a lot also...more on them in another post.
About Vin Jaune
Vin jaune (French for "yellow wine") is a special and characteristic type of white wine made in the Jura wine region in eastern France. It is similar to dry fino Sherry and gets its character from being matured in a barrel under a film of yeast, known as the voile, on the wine's surface. Vin jaune shares many similarities with Sherry, including some aromas, but unlike Sherry, it is not a fortified wine. The wine is made from the Savagnin grape and is usually served after diner with a good cheese, such as a Comte. Château Chalon is the oldest and most famous of the 6 Jura AOCs.
You will not find a wide selection in the US as the wine is not as popular here as it is in France. If you live in a major metropolitan area do try to find it. Sherry-Lehman in NYC carries it and you can order online. Dry sherry is a good substitute and it's what I used here at the lake
Cook Time:45 min
Yield: 4 servings
2 cups (2 ounces) dried morel mushrooms
1 fresh farm chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 serving pieces, at room temperature
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
2 plump, fresh cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 cups vin jaune from the Jura, or sherry, or an oaky Chardonnay
1 cup heavy cream
Prepare the morels: Place the morels in a colander and rinse well under cold running water to rid them of any grit. Transfer them to a heatproof measuring cup. Pour boiling water over the mushrooms to cover. Set aside for 20 minutes to plump them up. Then, using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the mushrooms from the liquid, leaving behind any grit that may have fallen to the bottom. If any of the morels are extremely large, halve them lengthwise.
Liberally season the chicken pieces on all sides with sea salt and white pepper.
In a deep 12-inch skillet, combine the oil and 4 tablespoons of the butter. Place over moderate heat. When the fats are hot but not smoking, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown until it turns an even golden color, about 5 minutes more. Carefully regulate the heat to avoid scorching the skin. (This may have to be done in batches.) When all the pieces are browned, use tongs (to avoid piercing the meat) to transfer them to a platter. Season again with sea salt and white pepper.
Pour off and discard the fat in the skillet. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the shallots, and the garlic. Cook, covered, over low heat, until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and boil, uncovered, over high heat for 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol, which could make the sauce bitter. Add the cream and the morels, and stir to blend. Return the chicken and any juices that have accumulated to the skillet. Cover, and cook over low heat, turning the pieces in the sauce once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through and has thoroughly absorbed the sauce, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve