The first surprise I learned reading about Anne Willan is that she is English, not French. I just extrapolated that she was French because she lived in a Chateau and had a cooking school there. The second surprise I had was trying to figure out how many cooking books she has authored –she doesn’t even know I read in this LA Times article from 2008. (The article is informative and it talks about her fairy tale life, her move to Santa Moncia, California, from France, her books, numerous awards, and her family life.)
Anne Willan’s website lists a sampling of 25 books, 17 of those are from her series “ Look and Cook ”, then there is “ La Varenne Pratique ” an encyclopedia of cooking and cooking techniques, and then probably something closer to her heart is From My Chateau Kitchen .
Anne has won numerable awards and among them are Les Dames d’Escoffier International, the Lifetime Achievement award in 1999 from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and Bon Appetit’s Cooking Teacher of the Year (2000). See more about her awards here . She is truly an intelligent woman and a Chef to be admired. Some of her better known students are Amanda Hesser (#22 on the list) and the grill master Steven Raichlen.
I chose her recipe for Drunken Chicken, which she found in a South African cookbook, because she thought it was an interesting dish. And after making it, I know that it is. Anne’s recipe is below, though I modified it to use olive instead of butter for a healthy recipe, and I also used a different wine for the sauce. This healthy recipe makes a memorable meal and it is also dairy-free!
Preparation Time: 24 hours (to marinate overnight)
Cooking Time: 1 hour
1 roasting chicken weighing 4 to 5 pounds
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (This replaces Anne’s instruction to use ¼ cup of butter.)
1 cup sweet white wine
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken stock
For the Marinade
2 cups dry white wine
¼ cup brandy
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, grated,
2-3 sprigs thyme
2-3 sprigs parsley
For the pearl barley
1 cup barley
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used olive oil here instead of the same amount of butter)
2 cups chicken stock
¼ cup pitted prunes
¼ cup dried apricots
¼ cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons chopped marjoram or parsley
*The instructions below are Anne Willans; however, I edited out the use of butter and edited in the use of olive oil.
Marinate the Chicken
1. Wipe the chicken inside and out with paper towels. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large heavy-duty plastic bag set over a bowl. Add the chicken and seal the bag with as little air as possible, leaving it in the bowl. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator, turning it from time to time, for a day – the bag ensures it is kept moist with marinade.
2. To roast the chicken: Heat the oven to 425 F/220 C/Gas 7. Take the chicken from the marinade, pat it dry with paper towels and sprinkle it inside and out with salt and pepper. Discard the marinade. Truss the chicken, set it on its back in a roasting pan, and rub 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the entire chicken. Roast the chicken in the oven, basting often, until it sizzles and starts to brown, about 15 minutes. Turn it onto one leg and continue roasting 15 minutes, basting often. Turn the bird onto the other leg and finally onto its back to finish cooking allowing 50 minutes to 1 hour total cooking time. To test, lift the bird with a two-pronged fork and pour juice from the cavity; it should run clear, not pink.
Cook the Barley
3. Meanwhile cook the pearl barley: pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan, add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it is soft but not brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the barley and sauté 2 to 3 minutes until the grains look transparent. Add the stock with salt and pepper, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, 30 to 40 minutes. Taste, and if the barley is not tender, add more stock and continue simmering.
4. Meanwhile toast the almonds: spread them on a baking sheet and brown them in the oven with the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, watching carefully that they don’t burn. Let them cool. When the barley is cooked, sprinkle the prunes, apricots and almonds on top and leave, covered, to keep warm. The barley can be stored in the refrigerator up to 2 days and reheated on top of the stove just before serving.
5. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a platter and cover it with foil to keep warm. Discard fat from the pan, stir in the flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the sweet white wine and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to dissolve the juices. Add the stock and simmer again until the gravy is slightly thickened and reduced by half. Strain it into a saucepan, reheat it, taste and adjust the seasoning.
6. If necessary, reheat the pearl barley. Add marjoram or parsley; stir to mix all the ingredients and taste for seasoning. Discard trussing strings from the chicken and spoon the barley around it. Moisten it with a little gravy and serve the rest separately.
Here’s what Anne suggests for cooking: “South Africa’s recent political renaissance has prompted the reappearance of its wines in US markets at very attractive prices. For the marinade, any dry white will do but, for authenticity’s sake, it would be fun to start with a South African wine, perhaps a Cape Riesling. For the sauce, a luscious sweet white is needed and a Muscat from the Constantia or Robertson district would be ideal.”
*Note – The wines that I used were Charles Shaw Chardonnay for the marinade, and Zellar Schwarz Katz for the sauce, which is less sweet than a Muscat but the results were very good.
Check out what other great recipes these bloggers are cooking up:
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