LONG HOUSE CHICKEN SOUP WITH STIR-FRIED FERNS

For chef Simon Browne, recipes don't develop: They happen. Many of them are still evolving and have yet to take final form for the travel cookbook he is writing.

Mr. Browne declined to provide a formal, testable recipe to run with this article. But he did allow a reporter to observe him while he prepared dinner:

Standing in a wooden kitchen shed dominated by a scorching charcoal fire, Browne readied chicken soup. After heating vegetable oil in a large soup pot, he put in finely chopped lemon grass, onions, garlic, and shallots and sauteed them. He added water and covered the pot.

Two chickens, squawking just two hours before, had been butchered and cut into large pieces. Slits were cut in the pieces, and large pieces of garlic stuffed into the incisions. After frying the chicken in oil to a light-brown color, the chef added the meat to the soup, covered it, and cooked it for one and a half hours.

Just before the chicken was done, Browne prepared ferns gathered in the forest that afternoon. The greens, which resembled asparagus stalks and had a strong, seaweed-like flavor, were stir-fried in oil with salt and a touch of monosodium glutamate. Potatoes and bread rounded out the meal. (It served seven.)

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