First of all, this is the 600th recipe I’ve made for this project. Six hundred!! Granted, it’s taken me a little over five years to get this far. But when you factor in two moves, having a baby, a handful of different jobs and volunteer gigs, it’s still a heck of a lot of new recipes. Even Ina didn’t publish all of these books in a five-year time span. And as the Haters’ Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog (2014 edition) points out, Ina has a [censored] amount of money and doesn’t have kids. He points out that he “could build a sister peak to Everest if I didn’t have these kids around gumming up the works.” Truer words…
Anyway, I’m excited to reach the 600 mark. When the new cookbook came out in October, I set a goal to reach 600 recipes by the end of 2014, and here we are. Hooray!
Back to the bouillabaisse. I held off on this recipe (from Back to Basics) for a while for a number of reasons. Why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to make a one-pot chicken dish from one of the original six Contessa cookbooks? Well, there’s a lot going on here. First of all, I associate bouillabaisse with its original incarnation, which is a fish stew. Fish stew kind of skeeves me out. Second, there’s fennel seed in the recipe (which I omitted – sorry Trent). Also, there’s bone-in, skin-on chicken in a tomato sauce, which is not my favorite thing. Last but not least, there’s some weirdness in the instructions, which supports my hypothesis that Ina used a different editor for “At Home” and “Back to Basics.” The instructions are not as good, and some of the ingredient combinations are just bad. I think she may have just been trying to crank out cookbooks to meet a contract obligation. I don’t know what happened between those two and the next several books in her series, but those two remain my least favorite.
Well, some of my reservations were valid, and so I addressed those while making the recipe. But my overall hesitance about the recipe was unnecessary – it turned out beautifully, and Neil agreed. My main objection had to do with food safety. The instructions call for browning the chicken (but not completely cooking it), and then removing it to a plate and setting it aside for more than 45 minutes. I don’t know what the FDA would have to say about this, but I said no thank you. Instead of setting aside half-cooked chicken at room temperature for nearly an hour, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, put the browned chicken on a sheet pan, and continued to cook the chicken while I made the rest of the ingredients for the sauce. I don’t mess around with raw chicken. Gah.
The lack of fennel seed didn’t leave us feeling like anything was missing, but I don’t think a few sprigs of thyme or parsley would have hurt anything, either. We did not skimp on the garlic or the saffron, so there was plenty of flavor. The next time I make it, I will probably brown the chicken for longer, just for the visual effect, but the taste was really quite wonderful.