James Bond is disappointed with his evening meal at an auberge on the south bank of the Loire, as revealed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963). Noticing that the establishment is decorated with faux antiques, he decides that his poularde à la crème is the only genuine antique in the place. A poularde is a young castrasted cock or capon, which in France is traditionally available at Christmas. To have it on the menu in September, when Bond’s adventure begins, suggests that the bird is an old one, hence Bond’s comment. Even now, one would be hard-pressed to find capons on the supermarket shelves, but this recipe, based on the classic cream dishes described by Elizabeth David and others, works equally well with an ordinary chicken, in which case it becomes poulet à la crème.
- 1 capon (or chicken)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 stick of celery, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 150ml chicken stock
- 150ml dry white wine (preferably from the Loire region)
- Black pepper
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the sauce
- 2 egg yolks
- 170ml double cream
- 1 tsp tarragon, finely chopped
Cut the capon (or chicken) into eight pieces – two legs, two thighs and four breast pieces. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or saucepan and fry the onion and celery until soft, then add the capon pieces. Brown the pieces over a medium heat for about 6 to 8 minutes, turning once. Add the stock, wine, bay leaf and a pinch of pepper, cover the pan with a lid, turn the heat to low and cook the capon for about 30 minutes. Check that the meat is cooked through (if not, continue cooking for another 5 minutes). Transfer the capon pieces to a serving dish and keep warm.
Strain the liquid, then return it to the pan. Reduce the liquid approximately by half over a high heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and cream together in a bowl (ensure that they are well combined). Mix in 2 or 3 tablespoons of the pan liquid. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and add the egg and cream mixture to the pan. Heat the sauce very gently, stirring constantly, until it thickens (take the pan off the heat if the sauce begins to boil). Return the capon pieces to the pan and cover them with the sauce. Sprinkle the tarragon over the top and serve.