When I am eating out, iIt’s not often that I pay more attention to a side dish than to the main course or dessert. But, during our last week in Paris this January that is exactly what happened. At the left bank Café Varenne on rue du Bac, I ordered a roasted bass with a broccoli and potato puree. It was the fish on the menu that had sounded so delicious, but it was the simple vegetable garnish that grabbed my attention.
The light green puree flecked with bits of verdant broccoli was smooth, light, and perfectly seasoned. When our waiter passed by later, I didn’t waste time asking him how it was prepared. He explained that both cooked yellow-fleshed potatoes and broccoli florets were puréed, and then enriched with a modest amount (for the French!) of crème fraîche and butter. Très facile, I thought!
Back home in the States, this humble dish was the first recipe I tested in my kitchen, and after some tweaking, the stateside version tasted identical to the Parisian original. I served it as a garnish to crispy chicken schnitzel (and have included the recipes for both here) But this easy side, which can be made a day ahead, would be just as tempting with grilled lamb chops, roasted salmon, or with baked ham for Easter.
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Café Varenne Broccoli Potato Puree plus Crispy Chicken Schnitzels
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch pieces
8 oz broccoli florets
Kosher salt for water and for seasoning puree
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup crème Fraiche
2 to 3 tsp chopped parsley
1. Bring a large saucepan filled 2/3 with water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and potatoes and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon to a mixing bowl. Add broccoli to the same pot, and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove and drain in a colander.
2. With an electric mixer on medium speed whip the potatoes, diced butter, and crème fraiche until mostly smooth.
3. Puree the broccoli in a food processor and stir it into the potatoes along with 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt and more pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. (Broccoli puree can be made 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly and adding milk if mixture seems too thick. Or reheat in a microwave proof bowl in a microwave.) Sprinkle each serving with parsley. Serves 4 to 5.
Crispy Chicken Schnitzels
4 chicken cutlets, 6 to 8 ounces each and about 1/4 inch thick (See note.)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups panko crumbs
3/4 cup flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for garnish
1. Place cutlets in a shallow nonreactive dish, toss with lemon juice, and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2 Spread panko crumbs and flour on separate dinner plates. Lightly beat egg and milk in a shallow dish. Pat cutlets dry with paper towels. Combine paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl; season each cutlet on both sides with this mixture. Dredge each cutlet in flour, then dip in egg mixture, then coat with panko crumbs.
3. Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, sauté enough cutlets to fit comfortably in a single layer until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove to a baking sheet, and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining cutlets, adding more oil if necessary. Serve cutlets with lemon wedges. Serves 4.
Note: Some stores like Whole foods sell chicken breasts cut into cutlets. If unavailable, use boneless chicken breast halves. With a sharp knife held parallel to the work surface, halve breasts horizontally starting at the thicker side and not cutting all the way through. Open them up like a book. You can use the cutlets whole or halve them (lengthwise) for smaller servings.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2016