Indeed there was a time as a post-grad law student when, unsure of my destiny and only certain that I had failed the land law component of the C.P.E. conversion course that non-law graduates had to sit, the only thing I could think of doing was to decamp to France and see what happened.
Fate intervened, I met the Husband and passed land law by the skin of my teeth (events related only by the fact that the Husband was in the same pub that I was celebrating the end - but not the results - of said exams), so my other life as an English woman in France never happened. May be, Sliding Doors-esque, my other self is currently sitting on the terrasse of a sprawling proprietee somewhere in the Midi, a herd of goats and some chickens milling around, while the Husband, assuming a slightly more unreliable "Kevin-Kline-in-French-Kiss" air about him than he currently sports, grows grapes and olives and the children run about tanned and bilingual...
I still have friends in France and we go back occasionally - we haven't been to my preferred corner of Languedoc for a few years, although we had a great holiday in Normandy last summer. I love French towns and cities as much as the countryside: Paris for sure, but also Lyon, Toulouse, Nantes, Aix en Provence, Carcassonne and my favourite of them all, Perpignan. I would gladly go back at any opportunity. May be next summer.
For now, I am compensating by cooking French. Tarragon is one of those classic tastes of France. My mother and I both have tarragon plants parented by a plant belonging to my French exchange's grandpere . Combine that with chicken and creme fraiche, a splash of white wine and some peas, and I could be sitting in a little bistro somewhere, the best memories I have of eating fabulous meals in France washing over me. The feel of the heat that hits you getting off the plane, the wonderful, clear light you get in the mountains, the sunsets over ancient fishing villages, the markets, the pains au chocolat, le Grand Bleu, Jean Reno, the cafe culture - all of it.
8 chicken thighs (bone removed)
salt & pepper
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
100ml dry white wine
300ml chicken stock
2 tsp cornflour
fresh peas - a good couple of handfuls
3 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tbsp tarragon leaves, ripped
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.
Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the shallots gently until soft - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic at the end of the cooking time for a minute or so.
Add the chicken pieces to the pan and brown for 2-3 minutes, turning once. Increase teh heat, pour in the wine and let it bubble up then add the chicken stock and let everything simmer for 10 minutes.
While the chicken is simmering, mix the cornflour to a paste with 2 tsp water, then stir into the cookking liquid when the 10 minutes is up. Throw in the peas and keep simmering until the sauce thickens at which point stir in the creme fraiche and tarragon and serve with new potatoes.
Best eaten outside as the sun goes down with a glass of crisp white wine...
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