Braised chicken thighs with chicory and bacon

Chicory is something I never ate in the UK, and thought I probably didn’t like. But over the last year I have discovered its virtues, when treated correctly (i.e. water should not come anywhere near it, if you want a result that is not limp, soggy, and unpleasantly bitter). Endives au gratin, where the chicory is pre-cooked, wrapped in ham, and covered with a nice cheesy sauce before being popped in the oven, is easy and obvious, but here’s a wonderful Simon Hopkinson recipe that sets it off at its best. Serves 2.

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Boeuf aux carottes et à l’orange

Years ago, I had a dish of boeuf aux carottes in a suburban bistro in Paris. Accompanied with noodles and a glass of beaujolais nouveau, it was absolutely divine (although I had a strong suspicion it was actually horse). I have tried several times since to reproduce this classic French dish, without success. This version, cooked by Steve recently using a recipe in a magazine, is as close as I have ever tasted — the tarragon is an inspired touch. Lovely with either noodles or baked potatoes to mop up the sauce.

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Blanquette de poulet

This is real traditional French bourgeois cooking. To be truly authentic, it should be served with plainly boiled white rice to soak up the sauce, but pasta or steamed new potatoes are also possibilities.

[note for purists — strictly speaking this should probably be called Fricassée, not Blanquette, as the meat is browned before cooking]

For 4 people:

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Mouclade

Devised by Steve from several different recipes, this is the best sauce for mussels I have ever tasted. It deserves small, fresh moules de bouchot (grown on posts in Brittany). Make sure you have lots of French bread for mopping up the sauce. This will serve six as a starter, or 3-4 as a main course.

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