Norman Apple Hens
How many times has your mother told you she’s no spring chicken? My maman tells me, usually, when I’m home, and she wants me to walk the dog, or run to the store, or lift something heavy–otherwise, to her chagrin, she is very spring chickenly. If your mom is like mine, make her feel young again on UK Mother’s Day! Make her spring chicken.
When Joel at the BBC asked me to do a Mothers’ Day menu, I considered it a very important, special assignment. I’m not sure there’s a better way to make the day special for maman than by doing what she’s always traditionally done for you: cooking. I would advise, of course, that you also purchase some jewelry, and tuck it into her cloth napkin. That never hurts.
The idea for this meal comes from the dichotomy of mother hen, and baby vegetables. Think of all the roast chickens your mother has made for you in your life. Cornish hens, or poussins, taste very similar to chicken, but can be elegantly and individually portioned. That’s the idea: take something simple, everyday, with which you’re familiar, and dress it up. I make this in the style of Normandy, coincidentally where my stepfather is from. Hey, if she likes one think from Normandy, chances are she’ll like another! I marinate the poussins overnight in cidre buche, a dry sparkling (and inexpensive) apple cider packed in Champagne bottles in Normandy. Then, I roast it with thyme, pancetta, and Calvados, an apple brandy, along with little pearl onions (what little girl hasn’t worn her mother’s pearls?) that become sweet little gems.
Because the dainty little hens are butterflied, they crisp up front and back, and stay overwhelmingly moist and flavorful from the apple liquors and the pancetta. To go with them, because Mothers’ Day falls just days after the start of spring, I put together a panoply of baby vegetables–from tiny zucchini and sunburst squash to spring peas and Chantenay carrots. They are simply braised with water and butter, and made decadent with creme fraiche. Everything here is dainty, flavorful, light, and, above all, thoughtful, but easy. This is actually one of the easiest meals I’ve ever created, and one of the ones of which I am most proud–proving that you don’t have to work too hard to make a dinner that is as special as your mom always made you feel.
Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and Chives
Dedicated to toutes les mamans! Bonne journée…
To catch the replay of this episode on Joel Hammer’s BBC Radio Oxford Sunday Lunch, visit BBC’s iPlayer. Today’s show should be up later today, or early tomorrow. I hope you enjoy, and that you make this incredible Norman hens! The website with playback links and the recipes is not up yet, but I am assured it will be up by the next installment.