London’s fog is the stuff of legends. Looking out the window of my hotel room at the field across the way, covered in a thick blanket of fog, I can understand where the stories of werewolves, monsters, and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night found a basis in fanciful reality. Mind you, the relentless grey skies can be oppressive if the sun doesn’t make its way through this afternoon – but I’ll be locked in a conference room either way.
Time to head home at the end of the week, then. This has been a very useful and full trip work-wise, and a treat to try all sorts of new foods, but it will be nice to be back home with my family, in my home, playing in the kitchen.
This dish, Chicken in a Pot, is a celebration of simplicity. Take a chicken, put it in a covered pot, and cook. That’s all. (Well, basically.) There’s not enough liquid in the pot for braising, but sealing the pot uses more moisture than roasting. The result is a chicken that may not be the prettiest, but the taste is so pure and rich that you can forgive a bit of the look.
The simplicity of this dish means that quality ingredients are most important. I’ve not done it yet, but if this dish were cooked with the standard plump mass-produced chicken available anywhere, the result would be a pretty good chicken. I was able to spend a little more and get a free-range chicken from my local supermarket (Kroger’s), where they get fresh shipments three times a week. It’s worth the little bit extra in cost.
Poulet en Cocotte (serves 4-6)
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2008
- 1 chicken, 3-4 lbs. Best you can get. Mine came from Maverick Farms via my local Kroger’s
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lemon, juiced, optional
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Heat oil in a heavy pot large enough to hold the chicken over medium heat. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Chop vegetables.
Pat the chicken dry and season with salt, pepper.
Brown the chicken, breast side down, about 5 minutes. Add vegetables to the pot around the chicken.
Flip the chicken and brown on the back side, 6-8 minutes, until the veggies begin to brown.
Cover tightly with lid, transfer to the oven, and bake at 250 degrees F for one hour. Larger chickens may take longer – a 3 pound bird will finish in about an hour, a 4 pound bird may need an hour and fifteen minutes, and so forth. Let rest 10-15 minutes. (I’ve used foil in the picture above to make sure the lid fit tightly.)
Optional: Strain the liquid left in the pot, pressing on the vegetables to get all the juice out, and defat. Add lemon juice to taste and pass at table. (A smaller bird may not give enough juice to make this work; use your judgment.)
Note: For safety’s sake, know safe cooking temperatures – I go by the US Food & Drug Administration guidelines. This isn’t a dish where a thermometer can be left in the bird, but err on the side of caution and check just to be safe as the chicken comes out of the oven.