Friday, April 26, 2013


A Recipe for Disaster

Consider this recipe, from

Chicken Fricassée with Lemon Mustard Sauce

Gourmet | February 2004
Adapted from À la Pomponnette, Paris, France

yield: Makes 4 to 6 main-course servings

active time: 45 minutes
total time: 1/2 hours
There may be more sauce than you need to serve with the chicken. Use the leftovers on mashed potatoes or simply freeze for another time.


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) free-range chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 500°F.
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. While oil is heating, sprinkle chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then dredge, 1 piece at a time, in 3/4 cup flour (total), knocking off excess. Brown in 4 batches, turning over occasionally, until golden, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter as browned.
Stir together carrots, onions, garlic, cream, wine, lemon juice, mustard, thyme, bay leaf, and remaining teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot, then bring to a gentle boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Add chicken (chicken will not be completely submerged) and partially cover pot, then braise in oven 25 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and braise 20 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a clean platter and keep warm, loosely covered with foil.
Pour cooking liquid through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, then stir in water. Melt butter in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons flour and cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Add cooking liquid in a fast stream, whisking vigorously, then cook at a bare simmer, whisking constantly, 5 minutes.
Serve chicken with sauce.

Recipes such as the one above are often reviewed by readers. One might find something like this:

J. N., Bakersfield, CA
I recently made this for a weeknight supper for my family. I didn't have a free-range chicken, so I substituted 1 1/2 lbs. of ground pork that I found in the freezer. We prefer salted butter, so I used that, and my husband doesn't like mustard so I used ketchup instead. It was too much of a fiddle to do all that chopping on a weeknight, so I substituted a package (10 oz.) of frozen, mixed vegetables. The kids don't do garlic, so I left that out. Instead of the wine, I chose half a carton of grapefruit juice that I'd wanted to use up. All in all, I found this too time-consuming. My family definitely didn't like this recipe. I won't make it again. 
I often get questions about substitutions...Galkyd, Gamsol, Turpenoid, this brand of colors instead of that, etc. 

The materials I list are ones that I've used over a long career. I find that their particular qualities are those that I want. This does not mean that you must use all, and everything, I list.

But remember, if the resultant painting isn't a hit, it may be because you substituted ketchup for transparent red oxide.

Just sayin'....

Some of you have been asking about what I was going to put beyond the hedges in the Vertical One. Here's a phone shot (lacking some crispness; also a lot of glare on the top and left side) of the current state of the center of the painting. But you'll get the idea. Much to be done. There will be a sapling on the left, with bits of spare foliage lit by the sun. What's there now is just some marks, rather like a post-it to remind me of what I want to do.

Tomorrow, with glorious weather forecast, will find us at the first of the two-day Spring plein air workshops. Perhaps I'll get some photos of the assembled throng, to share tomorrow night.

N.B. Please remember that registration for the French Workshop will be closing soon. So, if you've been putting it off, give in----and join us.  


  1. Nice pic!...can't wait to see it in all it's glory.

  2. I feel like I could be the poster boy for those people who constantly ask about substitutions. In all my years of cooking, I have never, ever, repeated the same exact recipe twice. Or even followed the original one to the letter.
    Sometimes that inspires wonderful culinary accidents. Sometimes it creates inedible disasters. Still, I do usually try to learn the basics before I branch out. Apparently, I need to refocus on applying that same discipline to my painting and workshop activities as well. Message received. Thanks.

  3. Well, I would like to visit À la Pomponnette, Paris, France, first, sort of get an idea of how the experts do it.... ;)