Monday, October 5, 2009

Poule au Pot

Spencer thinks this is funny to say out loud. I'm sure I'm not saying it quite so accurately myself, as I never formally studied French (though I was in the French Club in high school - trips to see French films in NYC and eating chocolate croissants!) Translated, it is referred to as French Chicken in a Pot. Jim is still in Paris, complaining about the number of steps in the Eiffel Tower (really, you're complaining sweetie? while I'm home with a barfing toddler?) so we are continuing our culinary tour of Europe each night.

I'm a huge fan of America's Test Kitchen. A few years ago, my sister and I surprised each other with a gift subscription to Cook's Illustrated for Hannukah. I love their attention to detail, and how they make so many iterations of each recipe to get it absolutely perfect. Though, I let my subscription lapse after that year because, as much as I enjoyed reading it each month, I never found myself actually cooking anything from the issues and the black & white sketches just didn't inspire me. Not long after, I discovered that America's Test Kitchen airs on PBS on weekend mornings. Seeing these exact same recipes in color on the big tv screen has got me hooked. I've tried so many and they are always, of course, perfect!

Recently aired was an episode entitled "French Classics, Reimagined" and I saved it on the DVR because I knew I'd be making their French Chicken in a Pot. And, I happened to have a whole chicken in my freezer from a local poultry farm I purchased at a meat co-op. I've prepared plenty of whole roasted chickens before, but this technique was new to me. So new, in fact, I didn't actually have a "pot" to cook it in and ended up using a lidded deep sautee pan. Nonetheless, this chicken tasted AMAZING. So moist, so delicious - two little kids and I put away half of a 3 1/2 lb bird, and both kids were begging for more of the jus. Seriously. It's that good. Whole chickens are inexpensive, even tasty organic ones.

Poule au Pot
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen French Chicken in a Pot

1 whole roasting chicken, best available you can find. Giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under back
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion
, chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)
1 small stalk celery , chopped medium (about 1/4 cup)
5 medium garlic cloves , peeled and trimmed
1 bay leaf

1 medium sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary (if using) around chicken. Cook until breast is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird, flip chicken breast-side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove Dutch oven from heat; place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven and cook until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, about an hour for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 lb bird, closer to 2 hours for a 5 to 6 lb bird.
2. Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from pot through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids or save to return to the strained liquid (you should have about 3/4 cup juices). Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low heat. Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan. Stir lemon juice into jus to taste (about 3/4t for every 3/4C.) Serve chicken, passing jus at table.

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