War and remembrance
Recipe a reminder of valor in Normandy battles
(August 29, 2007)
"The war is always present. It doesn't hide," said Wini Moranville, a restaurant reviewer and author of "The Bonne Femme Cookbook" (Harvard Common Press, $24.95), who divides her time between France and Des Moines, Iowa. "There are many things I love about France. What I love most is you can feel the weight of history, especially their wartime history."
Last summer she was on her balcony in a small French town when she witnessed a parade commemorating June 18, 1940 — the day Charles De Gaulle broadcast a radio message of resistance to German-occupied France.
"This parade had old people and young people,'' she recalled. "They gathered together at one of the monuments and laid a wreath, and the mayor made a speech about that time when France was almost lost. Then the mayor said, 'Let's gather in the town hall for an aperitif.' So there's the weight of history, yet the French snap back with a contemporary joie de vie."
It's that snap, and a bit of the history, that Moranville conveys in her new cookbook. "The Bonne Femme Cookbook" delivers a message that good, fresh, vividly flavored French cooking is possible wherever you live.
The fighting officially ended in World War I at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. The date became known as Armistice Day. Later, as Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada, it has become a time to remember and honor all wartime service. This chicken recipe from Normandy published in "The Bonne Femme Cookbook" evokes in author Wini Moranville memories of touring the World War II battlefields and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup Calvados or apple brandy; or 1/2 cup each: apple juice or cider and white wine
2 small tart apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley or chives or a combination
1. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, between two sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken (in batches, if necessary); cook, turning once, until no longer pink inside, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a platter; cover with foil to keep warm.
3. Saute the shallot in the skillet until translucent. Remove the pan from heat; pour in broth and Calvados. Return pan to heat. Heat to a boil, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the apples; season with salt to taste. Let the mixture boil until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, turning the apples occasionally, about 4 minutes for Calvados, 7 minutes for apple juice or cider and white wine.
4. Stir in 1/4 cup cream. Boil until the sauce thickens and the apples are crisp-tender. For a creamier sauce, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time; boil until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency. Spoon the sauce and apples over the chicken; sprinkle with the herbs.