About the residents of her adopted country, Toklas says, “the French are like their Bourbon Kings: they learn nothing; they forget nothing.”
Gertrude Stein died in 1946 at 72. Toklas died in 1967 at age 89. While Stein had established a trust upon which Toklas could live, and they had shared their amassed collection of 27 Picassos, seven Juan Grises, and Matisses, a legal battle prevented Toklas from accessing the collection. She died penniless in a rented flat in Paris, supported by the generosity of friends.
In the New York Times obituary, James Beard wrote, “Alice was one of the really great cooks of all time. She went all over Paris to find the right ingredients for her meals. She had endless specialities, but her chicken dishes were especially magnificent.”
This chicken roasted with oranges and port is a favorite in our home. It’s perfect. Go ahead and make it twice in a week because, as Toklas once wrote, “if perfection is good, more perfection is better.”
Alice B. Toklas Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
1 medium-sized (about 3½ pounds) roasting chicken, preferably free-range
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup ruby port
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Zest of 1 orange, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
When you bring the chicken home from the market, unwrap it and sprinkle it generously with salt. Cover and refrigerate it until ready to cook. Bring the bird to room temperature before cooking. Do not rub off the salt.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a large ovenproof skillet warm the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Brown the chicken breast side down, for 3 to 5 minutes then turn it over and brown the other side for 3 to 5 minutes.
Place the skillet in the oven and roast the chicken for 45 minutes. Pour the port over the chicken and baste it. Roast for 10 minutes more, than add the orange juice and baste again. Roast for about 5 minutes more. The chicken is done when the juices of the thigh run clear when pierced with the blade of a sharp knife, or when the thigh wiggles easily. Remove the chicken from the oven, transfer it to a cutting board, and let it rest as you make the sauce.