Julia Child, the one and only. It’s true, she can get a little carried away. In her first cookbook (Mastering the Art of French Cooking vol. 1), she paints a vivid picture of serving a pot-au-feu to your next dinner party, describing how the host forks out a hunk of boiled beef, then a chunk of boiled pork, and “finally, to wild acclaim, he brings forth a chicken”!
Julia, Julia, Julia. Get a grip. I don’t care if it’s the best boiled chicken (And beef. And pork.) anybody in the room has ever tasted, it’s Still. Just. A. Boiled. Chicken. Maybe life in the late fifties really was that boring.
But even though you have to smile sometimes when she gets enthusiastic about one dish or another, her recipes are almost always reliable. Never mind reliable – they’re almost always really good. What’s more, she usually starts by teaching you a general-purpose cooking technique and then briefly listing six or eight or more variations on it. And that’s how I wound up serving chicken sauted in vinegar (sometimes known, oddly, as hell fire chicken, even though it’s not all that spicy).
Actually, the first step felt more like Southern fried chicken than anything French to me – she tells you to dip the pieces of chicken in milk before flouring and browning them. No matter where the technique comes from, it turned out very well, and I’ll use it again. If you wanted to, you could just stop there and serve “crisp brown chicken”, and it would be a nice meal.
I wanted to push the cookbook a little farther, though. So I added some thyme – Julia suggests various herbs, but thyme was what I had on hand – and a bit of chopped onion and let it all cook, covered, in the chicken juices. Toward the end, I splashed in a little wine vinegar and let that cook down.
Personally, I thought it would have been better without the vinegar, but my husband and son loved it. So – another point for Julia Child. Never mind poor Marie Antoinette, never mind nationality: Julia for Queen of France!