Friday, July 9, 2010

Deviled Chicken at Oxford

University College (Building dates from 1634)
As I spend my first hours in England, I am really channeling Constance Spry as I walk the hallowed streets of Oxford. University College, founded by King Alfred in AD 872, should qualify as hallowed.
It is England, with a noble, lavender scented beauty everywhere. If only stone could speak, what a tale it could tell!
In “Garden Notebook” in 1940, Constance Spry wrote “Perfection in living seems to me to consist not in the spending of large sums of money but in the exercise of a selective and discerning taste in the use of what we may possess, and flowers and plants can in their judicious use contribute in a high degree to the elegance and graciousness of life.”
I just love that sentiment, don’t you? It’s not about the money, but about using what is around us (and what we have) to fill our lives with graciousness (a word that is not used often enough these days). This is a sublime spirit to cultivate and you feel it everywhere here in the great wild gardens and time-softened stone architecture of Oxford.

My first snack was at The Grand Café on High Street. It proudly announces it was the first coffee house in England (the first coffee was drunk in England at Balliol College just a few years earlier) that uses house-made cage-free egg mayonnaise for its wonderful little sandwiches. All the sandwiches on the menu, like smoked salmon, cucumber and watercress reminded me of many of of Spry’s efforts in THE CONSTANCE SPRY COOKERY BOOK. Her savory Éclairs with Deviled Chicken, bacon and watercress are bite-sized lovelies that go down far too easily (I can attest to this because my household did a lot of sampling with these babies) not unlike the sandwiches at The Grand.

I did use a different recipe for the pate a choux than Spry used after the first batch came out a little flat. I went to Michael Ruhlman who has the same recipe I’ve used for years but with simple instructions (and even a video) as well as a love song to the pastry. They really are fabulous. This makes enough for a few leftovers that I stuffed with chocolate ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and had instant profiteroles. You can make them and freeze them and then heat them up in minutes. I pop them in the toaster oven and they are good as new. That way they are always ready for a savory or sweet filling for last minute guests and quick desserts.

Devilled Chicken

2 poached chicken breasts (you could use the equivalent amount of left-over chicken)
2 T butter
Devil Sauce 2*** (around ½ of the recipe)
½ C cream (a little more if you like it moister)
1 T curry paste (powder?)
1 t. Dijon Mustard
2 t dry English mustard
seasoning (S&P)
Take chicken and chop into bite size pieces then toss with melted butter and run under broiler for a few minutes then toss with Devil sauce 2. Allow chicken to rest overnight. Combine other ingredients and heat gently and toss with chicken
Serve in choux puffs with chopped bacon and watercress.

Devil Sauce 2 ***

3 T worchestershire
2 T mushroom Ketchup (if you don’t have it… toss in a few mushrooms and a T of soy sauce with a pinch of allspice and mace)
1 T tarragon vinegar
1 T chopped onion
2-3 slices lemon
1 clove garlic
1 c strong stock
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Combine and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the lemon slices and the bay leaf and blend.

Choux paste
1/2 c water
4 T butter
½ c flour, sifted
2 eggs
½ t salt
Heat oven to 425º. Boil water and butter, add flour all at once and beat until smooth then allow to cool. Put into a bowl and using a standing or hand beater, add the eggs by degrees to the flour, waiting till one is incorporated before adding the next. The paste should be smooth and shiny.
Put on baking sheet either golf-ball size or pipe as éclair shapes (Savory éclairs were called Carolines during the Edwardian age). Then bake 10 minutes at 425º and lower heat to 350º and bake 20 more minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and pierce with knife to release steam.

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!


Diane said...

My mouth is watering......
Yes if only those university walls could talk. Diane

Ana Powell said...

Awesome post.
I love Oxford too.
Elegant dish and very delicious too.
Lovely photos ♥

Lazaro Cooks said...

Fantastic post, Deanna. Enjoy your trip and I wish I could make it one day.

Love the dish. Poaching chicken is a wonderful way to prepare it.

Safe Travels

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

What a wonderful quote from Constance - that is the way to live life! I'm jealous. I would so love to have a coffee at the first coffee house in England - what fun!

Stella said...

Hey Deana, yes, if only stone could speak! And I really relate to your feeling about graciousness. I am alway so in awe when I meet someone who is gracious. And I certainly want to be that way-it is a refined sort of thoughtfulness and intellectual decency that only some truly master.
Your food looks amazing here as always and my stomach is literally growling from looking at it. I think it's lunch time...
Have fun and relax a lot, Deana. Stella

tasteofbeirut said...


I just had some cousins from England over in Lebanon; one is a Cambridge alumni and his son is an Oxford one; graciousness, good manners , gentleness, I found all of these attributes in these wonderful folks. Love your chicken dish; you just made me think of making choux for our guests tomorrow.

Needful Things said...

Your photos are beautiful as always. I hope you're having a wonderful time!
I just tagged you for an award over at my blog - check it out.

Joyce said...

Lucky you to walk those streets. Devils ketchup is new to me. Thanks for explaining what it is exactly.

Unknown said...

I've never been to Oxford. Hubby and I drive through it on the way to london a lot, but I've never actually had the chance to walk around. That cafe looks amazings, and your deviled chicken looks to die for.
*kisses* HH
p.s. curry paste is an ingredient you can find in a lot of UK supermarkets

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

I knew you'd seek out such gorgeously unique places like this Deana! Those sandwiches look divine and I'm really looking forward to more England posts! :D

pierre said...

hi deana
they look fabulous these little sandwiches !! Pierre

Anonymous said...

Mmm, those sandwiches look scrumptious!

Becky said...

Looks and sounds amazing! I hope you are having the most lovely time. :)

Sarah said...

Oxford is so lovely. I attended an eventide church service there years ago. The music took my breath away - like angels singing. It was at 6:01 or 6:31pm, I can't remember which. But I do remember it being one minute later than you would expect. Some history with that time. What a fabulous idea for a dainty sandwich. I should really have a ladies luncheon and make some dainty things. These would definitely be on the menu. Can't agree more with Constance.

Faith said...

I hope you're having a fabulous time -- your pictures are exquisite! The deviled chicken sandwiches look like they're full of flavor and I love the pretty plate you served them on!

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Barbara said...

I'm following your every word, Deanna. I love London. Have not been for a couple years, but I'm going to be there through you! Keep the info coming!

I love the idea of using pate a choux for deviled chicken. Can really think of quite a few ways, besides the desserts we are used to, to use this in savory form.

El said...

I love this blog. Thanks for taking the time to do the research. It's fascinating!

Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron said...

Great story Deanna. This time you're taking us to England! I'm surprised with the Choux paste and curry paste in a sauce!

sweetlife said...

beautiful post, i hope you enjoy the rest of your trip and continue to delight us with wonderful pics and amazing food


Gemma said...

It is a perfect sandwich to eat in front of the TV looking at a good movie ;)

2 Stews said...

The whole combo sounds devilishly delicious!!


Anh said...

This is such a wonderful post. The words, photo and recipe!