A few weeks ago, the wall oven developed an ignition problem, so I took to leaving it on all the time, set at low. This was far from satisfactory, of course, but the problem went unfixed for so long because I just didn't think about it during the daytime, and at night there was no one to call.
After a wearying round of calls, on Thursday, to Gracious Home - I'd bought the oven there, and expected them to be able to supply me with the name and number of a repair outfit, only to find that they weren't - I got out the Yellow Pages for the first time this century and came across a service on 125th Street. "I hope that you can help me," I told the gentleman who answered the phone. "That is what we are here for," was his reassuring reply. And, indeed, two repairmen were at the apartment within a few hours.
But guess who'd remembered to turn the oven off only an hour before they got here.
The oven was still far too hot to touch, much less to work with. Even so, I'm not entirely sure that the men wouldn't have had to come back anyway. Why should they have been carrying around a new igniter? Which is what they installed yesterday, when they came back in the late afternoon. I was able to use the oven Thursday night, too. I jiggled the dial a bit and eventually the oven came on, allowing me to make Suprêmes de Volaille aux Champignons, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia Child's recipe for four is very easily halved. Rather than parrot her, I'll tell you how I make this classic variation on a theme in my own way.
Preheat the oven to 400º.
Take the boned halves of a chicken breast (the suprêmes) and rub them with lemon juice. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Set them aside, and chop up the white parts of three or four green onions. Slice a few mushroom caps. Melt a gob of butter in a small, flame-proof casserole. Throw in the green onions and, in a minute or so, add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms are cooked, lay the breasts atop the vegetables and top each one with a small strip of buttered waxed paper. Cover the casserole and pop it into the oven.
Mrs Child says that the chicken will be cooked in six minutes, but she and I, not working with the same ovens, never agree about timing. Twelve minutes was more like it for me.
On the stove, remove the breasts and set them in a warm place. Add to the casserole a half cup of heavy cream, a few tablespoons of vermouth (port and Madeira are other standard choices), and about the same amount of chicken broth. Reduce this until the sauce is quite thick and boils in large bubbles. Off heat, add the chicken and coat it nicely with the sauce. Serve the breasts on or beside steamed rice - Mrs Child calls for "a good risotto," but I can't imagine getting through this dish with something almost as rich on the side - and spoon the sauce and the vegetables over them. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Voilà.
A few asparagus tips on each plate, steamed in the microwave, give this dish an impressively finished look. (November 2006)
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