Thursday, October 13, 2011

French Chicken in a Pot (or Poulet au Pot)

Anyone who's been reading this blog for awhile knows about my roast chicken obsession. There are few things more satisfying to me than buying a whole (organic) bird, rubbing it in oil or butter or whatever the mood calls for, and sliding it into the oven to roast. Is there anything cozier or more comforting than a quiet night at home with the mouthwatering smells of a good roast wafting out of the oven? I love the tender meat, the delicious pan juices that make for an excellent gravy with no more effort than giving it a good whisk, and most of all, I love that nutty brown, perfectly crisp skin you get when you do it right.

That's why I was a bit skeptical of this recipe when I first read through it on my handy Cook's Illustrated iPhone app. They claimed generous rewards of intensely juicy meat (yes, even on the breast), but also warned that in exchange, I would have to forgo that glorious shattering crispness of the skin that I get with my traditional roasts. But who can resist a recipe with a name as charming as "French Chicken in a Pot?" Also, I've seen Poulet au Pot on French menus for years now on every trip I take to Paris, and having never ordered it, I was curious. And they were right--the meat was undeniably tender and juicy, and the pan juices were so robust in flavor that all they needed was a squeeze of lemon in the end. I don't think anything will ever replace my beloved roasts, but this is definitely a dish worth making. xo

French Chicken in a Pot
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
1 (4 1/2-5 lb) whole organic chicken, giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under back 
2 teaspoons kosher salt  
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
1 small onion, chopped medium (about 1/2 cup) 
1 small celery rib, chopped medium (about 1/4 cup) 
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed, and sliced in half 
1 bay leaf  
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

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 (5- to 8-quart) Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, celery, garlic, and bay leaf 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, 80 to 110 minutes.

Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from pot through fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids (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. Serve chicken, passing jus at table.

*The cooking times in the recipe are for a 4 1/2- 5 lb bird. A 3 1/2 - 4 lb chicken will take about an hour to cook, and a 5- 6 lb bird will take close to 2 hours.