Thursday, 23 April 2009

Chicken Bouillabaisse a la Pressure Cooker

Do not try this at home.

At least, not just yet.

A few weekends ago I was flipping through the
Barefoot Contessa's latest recipe book, Back to Basics. In usual style it is filled with beautiful pictures of beautiful foods. Inspiring. To say the least.

The one photo that made me pause was her
Chicken Bouillabaisse recipe. It looks sooooo amazing. And I was particularly thrilled that one of the ingredients is Pernod, as I had just been reading about Pernod use in Anthony Bourdain's book "Kitchen Confidential". Coincidence. I think not. It was a sign that I should pursue this recipe.

First I had to pursue Pernod.

It's a lovely French liqueur that has a strong licorice nose and fennel (or perhaps anise) taste. How could you go wrong?

Now that I've been on the pressure cooker bandwagon for a good two months, I figured I was ready to jump right into the recipe modifying it appropriately for pressure cooker purposes utilizing my arsenal of lessons learned.

I began by sautéing chicken parts seasoned with salt, pepper and rosemary (I used bone-in, skin-on, chicken breasts with the back attached) right in the cooker with olive oil. Once browned, I removed them to a plate.

From there I added lots of garlic (yummy), fennel (more licoricey goodness), saffron (very exotic), white wine (always a winner), Pernod (even more exotic), tomato paste (not so exotic), whole canned tomatoes (even more not so exotic), and chicken bouillon (the right thing to do). All of this was a variation on the book recipe but with reduced liquid, and more tomatoey flavour, and 10 minutes on high pressure vs.30-40 minutes simmering on the cooktop. Again, not just a time savings, but an energy savings (after all, yesterday was Earth Day).
After simmering, I made use of my latest favourite appliance (at least it is now that my sister-in-law taught me proper usage skills), the hand blender, and blended it all together. I then added cubed red potatoes and the chicken back to the pot. I brought the concoction back up to high pressure and cooked 17 minutes under pressure.

This is where I return to my initial statement - do not try this at home. Although the dish looked fantastic and smelled fantastic, I was less than impressed. But where did I go wrong? I haven't made this dish using the traditional recipe so was it my pressure cooker conversion? Did I add to much tomatoey goodness? Should I have added sugar to offset some of the acidity? Maybe I snacked too many crackers and other snacks while making the dish that I really just wasn't that into it?

I don't know.

Maybe it tasted as it should (the Pernod flavour did come through). But it just wasn't as good as it looks.

So I don't know, you can try it. Or not.

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