From the Age of Aquarius to the druggy days of disco, Maxime de La Falaise (1922-2009, shown above) wrote a lively cookery column for American Vogue. Fashion designer, writer, former model, daughter of a celebrated British portrait painter, and ex-wife of a French count, she was a spirited Anglo-Irish beauty who became a high priestess of the international bohemian set. She appeared in Andy Warhol films, had affairs with Surrealist artist Max Ernst and British diplomat Duff Cooper, and posed for Cecil Beaton. La Falaise could cook up a storm too, and tales of her culinary triumphs (as well her social debaucheries) have been passed on to me by a few of her friends.
In the 1 September 1972 issue of Vogue La Falaise addressed the topic “How to be a Good Cook … Without Really Slaving.” The centerpiece of the featured menu was Herbed Roast Chicken Legs. Last night our cupboard was pretty bare but we did possess most of the ingredients outlined in the lady’s brief recipe—chicken legs, herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, and olive oil. No cardamom, alas; turns out we used it up making a curry last week. A few seconds’ worth of Internet sleuthing, however, turned up one cook’s reasonable facsimile of this fragrant Asian spice—she conjured a mock version by mixing equal amounts cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, and ginger, all of which we have.
Chicken is pretty much a vehicle for other flavours, in any case, and as my family observed after cleaning their plates, La Falaise’s herbed drumsticks did not disappoint, cardamom or no cardamom. On the side I served mushrooms cooked in cream, a splash of white wine, and sprinkled with chopped parsley.
HERBED ROAST CHICKEN LEGS
SOURCE: Food in Vogue by Maxime de La Falaise (Doubleday, 1980)
SERVES 4 PERSONS
1 tablespoon butter, softened
8 chicken legs
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons mixed dried herbs, preferably an imported Provençal mixture
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter a shallow casserole, arrange the chicken legs in one layer. Brush them well with part of the olive oil. Sprinkle with half the herbs and cardamom and season with salt and pepper. Immediately turn the legs over, brush on the remaining oil, and repeat seasoning.
Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes, turning once. [NOTE: We found this directive woefully inadequate. After 30 minutes, the drumsticks were still too pink inside, so we increased the cooking time to nearly 50 minutes, which helped.]