I tried a traditional SF restaurant’s blue curacao hen. It was not good.

“A Cook’s Tour of San Francisco” has been haunting me for in excess of a year. On a whim, I’d purchased the 1963 cookbook at a employed bookstore. Flipping as a result of its lots of recipes, all contributed by the trendiest places to eat of the working day, I thought it would be pleasurable to test a few. Certainly, I believed, there is a little something weird in in this article.

And there it was on page 158: Chicken Cynthia à la Champagne, a horrifying mix of chicken, mushrooms and a sauce of cooked champagne, curaçao and cream. The recipe came courtesy of Ernie’s, after one particular of San Francisco’s most significant-toned dining establishments (it is, following all, highlighted in the chapter identified as “Elegant.”)

If Ernie’s appears common, you almost certainly know it from the Hitchcock vintage “Vertigo” Kim Novak dines there, dressed in an unforgettable gown. Did she the moment eat this champagne hen, I questioned.

I advised the foodstuff editor I would try out it. But then regret set in. I’d decide on up the cookbook, flip to the website page and back again out. Time and yet again. At very last, so bored in quarantine that any adjust of tempo sounded excellent, I went to the store to acquire an uncomfortable assortment of merchandise.

The recipe referred to as for two complete chickens, which was one particular and a fifty percent chickens way too lots of for this experiment. So I halved the recipe and opted to use just rooster breasts. I also did a truthful total of Googling to figure out if curaçao only became blue in the present day period. Absolutely a colorless edition would make extra perception. But no, it is been marketed as a vivid blue liqueur considering the fact that the early 1900s.

For the champagne, I went with Cook’s, mainly because there was no way I was shelling out actual cash on a little something I’d be boiling. As directed, I also picked up mushrooms, oranges and grapes for “garnish.” My purchasing cart appeared demented.

The recipe starts off with pan-frying the hen, then baking it, then simmering it for 20 minutes in the curaçao-champagne sauce. I reduced the cooking occasions for each of these actions, hoping to avoid a bone-dry completed solution.

Chicken Cynthia à la Champagne, one of the specialities of Ernie's restaurant in San Francisco.

Hen Cynthia à la Champagne, a single of the specialities of Ernie’s cafe in San Francisco.

Katie Dowd/SFGATE

Anything was normal at initially, minus the fact the recipe’s seasoning is all salt, no pepper (also spicy, I presumed). Then, it was time to make the sauce. The champagne and curaçao were intended to go into the pan I applied to brown the rooster. I resolved this was good it intended the browned hen bits would switch the sauce a normal shade. Three teaspoons of curaçao would not be ample to change that. I poured it all in.

Despite the simple fact I was on your own in the kitchen, I listened to the terms “oh no” escape my lips. It was blue. It was SO blue. As the liquid splattered, it left behind small cerulean circles on my white stovetop. It looked like I was boiling hen in Gatorade.


Soon after a few minutes, I flipped the rooster about and was astonished to see it experienced turned Engage in-Doh blue. It was the most unappetizing colour I’ve at any time seen on meat. But it smelled Alright, a bit like a white wine sauce. Leaving the rooster to simmer in its blue bathtub, I started peeling grapes for garnish. This was an annoying course of action and I ended up only kind of scraping the peel off with my fingernail. Issues were not seeking like a 1960 Existence journal unfold.

After a little bit extra simmering, the sauce, these kinds of as it was, had reduced down adequately to insert the product and some cooked mushrooms. The blue turned inexperienced, flecked with brown fond and floating with mushroom bits. It looked like the surface of a stagnant pond. I plated it slowly and gradually, looking at the hot cream sauce pool around the grapes. I felt like a very first-time skydiver standing in the door of the aircraft. Every single mobile in my body was telling me not to do this.

I'm sorry, everyone.

I’m sorry, everyone.

Katie Dowd/SFGATE

I took a bite. In in between the frying and the baking and the simmering, even just after decreasing the periods, it was as dry as straw and as dense as oatmeal. The champagne simmered also very long, and all the flavor was gone. It tasted like salt. I have made chicken boiled in hen broth. And it is aquamarine.

I do not sense like Kim Novak.

Component of me desires to throw this mess out, but I grew up with a fantastic aunt who lived by the Depression. I viewed her scrape plates clear, practically. I do not believe that in foodstuff waste. So I took my backup evening meal, fettuccine Alfredo, and topped it with slices of Chicken Cynthia à la Champagne. Blended in with the pasta, it tasted ordinary, conserve for the mottled environmentally friendly-blue edges.

Ah, I believe to myself. Now this is sophisticated.

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