It’s become somewhat of a tradition that my husband meet up with me in Paris after his annual company meeting in Europe, and we spend a couple of days in the city exploring places to eat and visiting at lease one nice restaurant. On our most recent visit, I was so busy before I left California that I forgot to book a reservation anywhere (Clown Bar, Chez L’Ami Jean, Le Servan were on my list). To make matters worse, my phone decided to shut down the moment the plane at SFO was getting ready to take off, so I couldn’t even call a restaurant if I wanted to (my Airbnb didn’t have a land line, and my phone – after spending the majority of my first day in Paris at the Opera Apple Store – was surely dead).
I had my laptop with me, as a writer does, so I scrambled to find a place that would even have an opening for us on a Saturday. While there is no shortage of restaurants in Paris, I wanted something special, and I found Restaurant Allard.
Allard is a tiny bistro located in a quiet part of the 6ème, a sort of place that has become quite rare in the changing face of Paris. Dark wood, floral wallpaper, a banquette of red leather, and wait staff in elegant black and white uniforms are an echo of the timelessness the restaurant captures, which extends all the way to the food. Allard is the sort of place you go for French classics – and our experience did not disappoint. This restaurant is not entirely inexpensive – 30€ starters, 45€ plates, etc – but there is an option for a formule midi, a selection of entree-plat-dessert for just about 35€. It was the perfect way to get to know the food (and it was plenty of food).
I have been trying for years to make blanquette de veau as it is one of my husband’s favorites. (My belle-mère makes a really good one; my last attempt at it definitely fell short and it was written all over my husband’s face.) Long story short, the blanquette at Allard was so outstanding that it inspired me to try making it again when we returned to the States. Since good veal is hard to find in the US (and also a bit controversial), I decided to make it with chicken – after all, this dish is really all the about the sauce.
Blanquette de Poulet
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
1/2-whole box of mushrooms (white or brown, doesn’t matter), halved or quartered depending on size
1 lb chicken breast (I used skin on, boneless)
50g of pancetta or bacon (I cut up about 2 pieces or so)
2 T sour cream/Creme fraiche/heavy cream
1 egg yolk
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper
Bring water to a boil, dissolve bouillon cube. Boil chicken for 15 min then remove from pot, but reserve cooking liquid. Cut chicken into chunks.
In a separate pan, heat a tiny bit of oil and add bacon and onions, cook over medium heat for about 10 min. Remove from pan and set aside with chicken.
In the pan you used for sautéing, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and blend well to make a roux, cook for about two minutes. Add about half (or more) of the cooking liquid and whisk briskly to make a smooth sauce. Let it thicken for a few minutes as it cooks, if it gets too thick add more cooking liquid.
In a cocotte (Dutch oven), place the chicken, bacon mixture, mushrooms, carrots, a pinch of dried thyme, and sauce. Simmer for about 30 min. In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, and cream in a small bowl. Just before serving, use a slotted spoon to transfer all the solids – the veggies and the chicken – to a serving dish and turn the heat down to very low. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining sauce and heat gently for one minute. Adjust seasonings and pour over chicken to serve. Garnish with parsley or chopped chives, I serve it on a bed of rice or potatoes.