On its very last day, May was wet and filled with puddles; the month of May – you see – was wet and filled with puddles in general.
So inside we huddled, baking bread, stirring soups and drastically rearranging our furniture.
On the subject of bread, pictured below are our first attempts at Kaisersemmel and the appropriately named Zeilensemmel [lines of little breads] and a not-so-systematic record of breads we’ve baked in the last six weeks.
The results of furniture rearrangement were (absurdly) revolutionary and have left us feeling as though we have moved flats entirely – all because the table at which we eat is now (logically) much closer to window, which means a whole lot more daylight to reckon with and a better view of the green on the balcony.
That day we found another reason to use the burgeoning tarragon plant, alongside the leftovers of a meaty chicken soup from the night before. Just the thing for (winning over) a balcony flowerpot cat in pursuit of comfort.
Chicken fricassée / Hühnerfricassee: a gorgeous and comforting dish, an after-soup suggestion, a poor man’s food, a what-is-in-my-refrigerator spiel, a Kinderessen neither of us ate in childhood but nonetheless covet with borrowed nostalgia as grown ups.
The concept of fricassée (as we know it, in [this part of] Germany) is fundamentally frugal – it is about making a soup chicken go further, but as indulgently as possible; with, of course, the holy trinity of butter, cream and wine. The dish involves sautéing shallots or onions in butter, adding whichever arrangement of vegetables and herbs you can gather (such as peas, asparagus, mushrooms, kohlrabi, fresh or otherwise) sprinkling over flour to make a white roux (or as the Germans much less beautifully say, a Weiße Mehlschwitze – eewwww), deglazing the pan with wine, slowly adding stock, and thickening with full cream. Finally, we add shreds of leftover chicken picked off the bone. The result is as comforting as can be, heady with nutmeg and buttery everything, heavy on the pepper; and the addition of tarragon lifts the dish to someplace even prettier.
Chicken Fricassée with Brown Mushrooms and Tarragon
Serves two, cooking time: no more than 30 minutes
A generous knob of butter
1 onion, finely diced
400 g brown mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons plain flour
100 ml cold white wine (half a glass)
1 – 2 cups chicken stock
1 sprig of thyme
up to a handful of tarragon, coarsely chopped
50 ml full cream
2 (leftover) chicken thighs / legs, picked off the bone
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
In a large pan over medium heat, sauté onion in butter (without browning) until translucent. Add mushrooms and garlic and sauté until almost all liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle over flour and stir vigourously for 30 seconds or so – we want it to cook quickly without browning; deglaze pan with wine and stop stirring at this point to avoid clumping. Add stock incrementally, and begin stirring again when the flour has visibly dissolved. Add herbs, then cream and stir through. Be sure to season with salt and pepper before adding cooked chicken and covering wth a lid, as you will want to stop stirring again at this point to avoid breaking chicken into strands. As a final garnish, grate over fresh nutmeg and a sprig of tarragon.
Serve with your favourite standard long grain rice, or a crispy baguette (!) and a glass of wine.
Feel lovely all over!