When I first explored Normandy many years ago I took the Nationale 13 instead of the motorway from Paris. It was a more picturesque route and I often left it to visit small towns and historic sites along the river Seine.
I passed through the charming town of Cormeilles when I left the N13. I didn’t stop there at that time, saving it for my return maybe, but continued towards Pont l’Eveque and Deauville as I wished to reach the coast. A few kilometers after Cormeilles, I reached a lovely hamlet called Bonneville-la-Louvet, boasting a 13th century church and a sign for a restaurant. Having been warned of the inflated prices of seaside restaurants, I made a frugal decision to stop and dine here.
The village was beautiful, black and white timber-frame houses, a flower-clad bridge over the clear, fast-flowing river and a bent but elegant church built of creamy local stone. It was like stepping back in time.
I entered the small, busy restaurant and was immediately assailed by wonderful cooking aromas hanging in the heavy, slightly humid atmosphere. The owner, Henri, held court in impressive fashion from behind the bar counter, his girth making it impossible for a belt to retain his trousers in place so a large set of braces helped to defy the pull of gravity.
I was seated with astonishing rapidity and was told that only the “Plat du jour” was left.
“Fine, what is it?” I asked.
“Poulet au Cidre, my own recipe and the best you will find anywhere”.
So this was my introduction to that particular and excellent regional dish. Henri became a friend, along with his wife Marcelle and I actually bought a piece of land in the town and built a house there. This is his recipe. The restaurant has changed hands, Henri has gone and like so much of French culinary heritage that is disappearing, it is now a pizzeria.
Enjoy, and raise a glass to Henri.
The Recipe (for four people)
- 4 chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks, breasts)
- 1 large onion or 3 shallots, finely sliced
- 300ml dry cider
- 2 tbs crème fraîche
- 100gr butter
- 2 pinches tarragon
- 1/2 level tsp fresh grated nutmeg
- 1 apple (Granny Smith), peeled and cubed
- 1 heaped tsp flour
- 100ml good chicken stock
- Trim the fat and excess skin on the chicken pieces.
- Melt the butter in a pan and fry the chicken for 4 minutes each side until golden, remove and set aside.
- Add the finely-sliced onions to the pan and sauté for 4 minutes at medium heat until slightly golden.
- Sprinkle in the flour, nutmeg and pepper and mix with the onion and juices and then add chicken stock.
- Put the chicken pieces back in the pan, add the cider and cubed apple, bring nearly to the boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally and add the chopped tarragon.
- Stir in the crème fraîche just before serving. Salt to taste.
I sprinkle a little chopped tarragon on the chicken when plated for colour and freshness.
I like to serve this dish simply with boiled new potatoes and a little spring cabbage, or if I am adding an British twist to this for my French friends, I make suet dumplings. A real Entente Cordiale!
Andrew David, alias Mexico Pete, has been a fellow participant (with many other writers) in Free Range Humans Writers’ Month organized by Marianne Cantwell. He describes himself as a “World Person”. He travels a lot, lives in different countries, and has a profound love of food. In every country he has visited, he has discovered wonderful, often simple recipes, based on excellent produce. Andrew intends to start his own blog to showcase some of these as well as recipes of his own invention. When he does, One French Word will invite him back, so watch this space!