Saturday, 8 February 2014

Comfort Food.

Some meals just take you somewhere. They often aren't the grandest, most haute-cuisine of dishes, but they transport you to a place of comfort and familiarity. Last night, confronted with the last leftovers of a roast chicken, I made chicken croquettes. I had seen Michel Roux Jr. cooking his version on Food & Drink on BBC2 this week and so I searched the BBC website for the recipe. I added a little Dijon mustard to his recipe to give them a little kick.

As I stood there, mindlessly (but very messily) rolling these little cylinders of mashed potatoes, up to
my elbows in breadcrumbs, I was struck by a strong memory: the last time I had eaten these gorgeously gentle tasting, comforting little bars of gold they were cooked for me by my beautiful Mum. In three weeks time it will be two years since she passed away and I never feel closer to her than I do in the kitchen. She was quite simply THE BEST home cook I have ever known. She always cooked from love and she had the incredible ability to create something sublimely delicious out of a seemingly bare cupboard. She created a feeling of feasting and plenty at every dinner table. And this meal I was preparing for the first time for my little darlings was one of last meals my mother cooked for me.

They were divine when I ate them in Wendy's farmhouse kitchen in rural France. Pillowy soft and purely flavoured in the middle, wonderfully crisp on the outside. And they were pretty good last night too, I have to say (Mr Wren managed seven of them!). It is how I will always see my Mum - stood serenely at a stove, children at her side. And last night, as I stood at my own stove preparing this meal I felt like we were side by side once again.

Like I said - some meals just take you somewhere.

Michel Roux's Chicken Croquettes

3 large floury potatoes, cut into 2.5cm cubes
3 large eggs
30g unsalted butter
5-6 tarragon leaves, finely chopped (I love tarragon, so I added quite a lot more)
1/2 lemon, zest only
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
200g leftover roast chicken, chopped
100g breadcrumbs
100g flour
vegetable oil, for deep frying
My own addition - 1 heaped tsp of smooth Dijon mustard.

Boil the potatoes until tender and then mash as finely as possible. Set aside to cool slightly.

Lightly beat one of the eggs and add to the cooled mash, along with the butter, tarragon, lemon zest, salt and pepper (and mustard, if using). Mix well.

Add the chicken and combine.

Place the breadcrumbs in one bowl, flour in another, and the remaining two eggs (beaten) in a third.

Take small handfuls of the potato mixture and shape into logs around 5cm long. Roll each in flour, dip in egg and coat in breadcrumbs. Chill for 30 minutes.

Deep fry in batches, turning occasonally until golden brown all over. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm while you fry the rest.

Serve with a green salad dressed with an astringent dressing of your choice ( I used dijon mustard, maple syrup, white wine vinegar, olive oil and salt & pepper) and let them transport you to your own little French farmhouse kitchen.

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