A couple of months ago, I came across an article in the New York Times that focused on a French dish called Vegetables à la Grecque. It’s essentially lightly poached vegetables served at room temperature or slightly chilled, with a savory sauce that somewhat resembles a pickling liquid. That launched me on a research quest, which turned up a bounty of variations, and convinced me that as soon as the local farmer’s market is in full swing, I’ll be making this a mainstay dish for summer lunches and dinners.
Vegetables à la Grecque, despite the name, has nothing to do with Greece, but refers to a French imagining of Greek “style” food. The methodology is the same across the dozens of recipes I uncovered in my research. Whatever fresh vegetables are at hand are simmered in a liquid made up of olive oil, white wine, vinegar and sometimes vegetable stock. The only trick is to time the adding of the vegetables to the liquid to make sure they’re done properly — cooked but still a little bit firm when you bite them. This isn’t much of a problem, since the dish is intended to be served cool.by
The inspiration for this chicken supremes recipe came from a visit to my favorite wine shop, where I struck up a conversation with one of the owners. Turns out he grew up in Massachusetts, and as a young boy, took a job doing yard work for a neighborhood family.
“We’d be working in the yard and about lunch time, the woman we were working for would come out of the house and pretty much drag us in to have lunch, whether we wanted it or not,” he told me. “She was a large woman, and really intimidated us. Not someone to argue with.” He didn’t remember the food that much, though he did say that all of it was pretty good.
“A few years later,” he laughed, “I turned on the TV and there she was… Julia Child.”
When I got home from the wine shopping trip, I felt compelled to look through my Julia Child cookbooks and remembered this chicken supremes dish. In the book, Julia presents the chicken poached in butter as a kind of master recipe, with several variations. The version below is my adaptation of that master recipe, which I’ve made many times and decided to recreate recently. If you’re wondering, supremes is the French term for chicken breasts. In classic cooking, the wing bone is left on the breast, but Julia Child uses the term as I do here, so take your pick.by
My amazing daughter recently moved to a new home which sits on a large lot on which are planted several fruit trees, including a couple of pear trees. When I got back from a recent visit, I began thinking about what might be done with the fruit I’m hoping to collect from her and also some things she might be interested in doing with what looks for now to be a bumper crop. Poached pears was high on my list.
Poaching does wonderful things for pears. It brings out the subtle pear flavor and sweetness and accents that flavor with hints of the flavors in the poaching liquid. If you think of the pears as the lead singer in a band, then the poaching liquid represents the back up singers, adding harmonious depth to a song without overpowering it. Adding in a complimentary sauce, on the other hand, is a lot like inserting a great guitar solo to the tune.by
There probably isn’t a more elegant and simple way to prepare a beautiful fish filet than poaching, so when I found this very fresh grouper at a fish market, there was no doubt that poached grouper would be on the menu.
For me, poaching requires fish that’s mildly flavored and firm, and filets that are 3/4 inches to an inch thick. In addition to grouper, you can poach cod, or snapper, for example, but I’d steer clear of sole or rockfish. Sole has a tendency to disintegrate and rockfish can be very strong flavored, to the point of overpowering the delicate flavors of the poaching liquid.by
Sunday was National Lobster Day. I guess my local grocery got the memo, since they had the tasty rascals on sale over the weekend. But… I already had the meal plan set for the weekend and I hate the idea of having lobster tails just sitting in the fridge, waiting their turn.
Solution? Simple, elegant poached lobster tail appetizers. Now you might grab a nice size lobster tail and parcel some out for each plate, but I like to use the smaller 6-8 oz. tails, so everyone can have one or two. The presentation is much nicer that way.by