A Russian friend was coming over for a cooking lesson. He wanted to learn to make easy dishes he could prepare ahead of time to serve when friends came for supper at his dacha. Top of his list was … beef stroganoff. I found the idea of teaching beef stroganoff to a Russian to be rather fanciful, so I suggested poulet bonne femme, an earthy dish of chicken, bacon, mushrooms and onion that, like stroganoff, is finished with cream.
Poulet bonne femme / Chicken with bacon, mushrooms and onion
Reader, he liked it. And found it surprisingly simple to make. We chopped for about five minutes, then got things going on the stove. While the chicken was cooking, we made some rice. Within half an hour, the food was ready to bring to the table.
This classic French dish is a crowd pleaser for young and old alike. But why ‘bonne femme’? The term translates as ‘good woman’, as in ‘my good woman’, but in cuisine it connotes a rustic style of cooking, often a one-pot dinner that incorporates bacon, onion, potatoes or some combination of the three. (Anecdotally, the term can carry a slur when applied to a woman in general parlance. Best to avoid it outside the kitchen.)
To date, there is only one other bonne femme recipe on this site: omelette bonne femme, an omelet with bacon and potatoes. But bonne femme dishes abound in France, from filets de sole bonne femme (sole in a mushroom cream sauce) to lapin bonne femme (rabbit stewed with mushrooms and bacon) and even laitue bonne femme (hearts of Boston lettuce cooked with bacon and onion). Now that’s country cooking.
My Russian friend went home to his dacha, and I haven’t yet heard whether he’s attempted making poulet bonne femme for his friends. But I’m sure he will one day. And when you’re in the mood for a simple, tasty supper, why not give it a try?