12 January 2010

Poulet Vallée d'Auge

I had a chicken in the freezer, and it was a Label Rouge poulet noir — a black-feathered chicken from Brittany — and a bottle of hard apple cider that had been on a rack in the downstairs pantry for 5 or 6 years. And then I saw a guy on Cuisine TV make a chicken cooked in a sauce of cider and apple brandy. He called it Poulet Vallée d'Auge. There was my idea.

A poulet noir from a farm in Brittany
the feathers, not the meat, are black


There was no recipe on the Cuisine TV site and I hadn't watched the show that carefully. So I found a recipe here: Normandie-Héritage. Just now I looked and finally did find a recipe (in French) posted by Laurent Mariotte, the chef I saw on Cuisine TV last week. It's here, and it's a little less complicated than the one I made. However, Mariotte's recipe doesn't include any apples, and apples are an essential ingredient in the area known as the Vallée d'Auge.

Of course, both my cider and my chicken came from Brittany, but that didn't stop me.

Cider from Brittany, 2% alcohol content

As you might have surmised, the Auge Valley is in Normandy. It is the heart of what is called Lower Normandy, where the largest city is Caen. It is a region of very green hills and valleys, and it's cheese country: Camembert, Livarot, and Pont-l'Evêque, the three most famous cheeses of Normandy, originated there in villages bearing those names. The other essential products of the Auge Valley are apples, cider, and the apple brandy called Calvados, along with — as in all of Normandy — rich, thick cream and unsalted butter.

Cut the chicken into eight serving pieces.

The only thing you might think is complicated about the Normandie-Héritage recipe is that it calls for cutting up the chicken and making stock with the carcass. The parts of the chicken that you serve are the wings, thighs, legs, and boneless breasts. What's left after you cut those away goes into the stock pot with carrots, onions, celery, and herbs. Cover it all with water and simmer it for an hour to make a nice broth. You can make it ahead.

The chicken pieces browning in a pan in butter

You could of course use chicken broth you've already made or bought, and chicken parts that you've bought too. That would simplify things.

The recipe also says to lightly sprinkle or dredge the chicken pieces in flour. I think that's optional, but it's what I did. The flour coating makes the sauce stick to the chicken pieces when you serve it. There is no flour or other starch in the sauce itself.

One thing I really liked about the Normandie-Héritage recipe is that it calls for panning the chicken pieces in butter until they are browned, and then putting the pan in the oven to finish cooking. It doesn't specify a temperature or a cooking time — a lot of French recipes are vague on such details — but leaves it up to the cook.

The chicken before putting the sauce on it — we had it with rice.

The result is chicken that is more roasted than braised. Other recipes say to simmer the chicken in apple cider, which gives a different result entirely. I like the chewier texture of the roasted chicken with the sauce. Again, it's your choice.

The sauce is easy. It's approximately equal amounts of cider and chicken broth, with some shallots and cream.

Okay, here's the recipe — my translation and adaptation.

Poulet Vallée d'Auge

1 free-range chicken (about 3 lbs.)

3 to 4 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper

The chicken carcass and aromatic vegetables in a stock pot
To make the broth:
1 chicken carcass
2 carrots
1 leek (or 1 medium onion)
1 stalk of celery
1 herb bouquet (bay leaf, parsley, thyme, etc.)
salt and pepper
water

Shallots and diced apple cooking in chicken broth and cider
To make the sauce:
6 or 7 shallots
1 tart apple (Granny Smith, for example)
1 cup chicken broth
¾ cup hard cider
2 Tbsp. Calvados (apple brandy)
¾ cup cream
2 Tbsp. butter

The garnishes:
3 apples
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. butter

¼ lb. pearl onions
1 tsp. sugar
½ Tbsp. butter

1 dozen button mushrooms
1 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper

Cut the chicken up and set the wings, legs, thighs, and breasts (boneless) aside.

Cut the carcass into two or three pieces and put it in a pot with the other ingredients for the broth. Add enough water just to cover everything and set the pot on high heat. Bring to the boil and then simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Strain and reserve the broth.

When the broth is made, salt and pepper the chicken pieces and sprinkle or lightly dredge them in flour. Cook them in butter in a skillet or sauté pan until they are nice and brown. Set the pan in a 300ºF/150ºC oven for 20 minutes or until you're sure the chicken is done. Then turn off the oven, take the chicken out of the pan, and put it on another dish or pan in the oven to stay warm.

Pour off any extra fat left from cooking the chicken and sauté the shallots in that same pan. Peel, core, and dice the apple. Add the apple and the apple brandy to the pan with the shallots and sauté until the brandy has evaporated. Pour in the broth and the cider and let it all reduce by about a third on high heat. Add the cream and let it reduce again by about a third. When it's done, strain it.

Meanwhile, make the three garnishes (or at least the mushrooms — the pearl onions and apples are optional but delicious).
  • Peel the apples and the onions. In a saucepan, glaze the onions with the butter and sugar by cooking them together on medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Core the apples and cut them into slices. Rub them with lemon juice, sprinkle them with sugar, and sauté them in butter in a skillet. Pour a little apple brandy into the pan and flambé it or just let it evaporate.
  • In another pan, sauté or "sweat" the mushrooms in butter with some salt and pepper.
Put the chicken pieces and the garnishes on a serving dish and pour some sauce over all. Serve the rest of the sauce at the table.
A lot of recipes like this one instruct you to discard all the vegetables used for flavor — the carrots and leek or onion that cooked in the broth, the shallots and apple that cooked in the sauce. That's restaurant cooking for you. If you are serving the dish to family at home, save the aromatic vegetables and serve them with the sauce. And why not some steamed rice or pasta to go with that sauce and all the rest?

14 comments:

  1. oh my HEAVENS!! That looks incredible. I can just taste it. Yumm!

    Ken, if we didn't have access to buying a whole bottle of Calvados, do you think that brandy or cognac would do the trick? I imagine it would affect the flavor, but it might work.

    Thanks for posting about this!

    Judy

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  2. This looks delicious and very easy. As I am indisposed for a while, I will show it to Nick and remind him that we have a chicken in our freezer !!
    We NEVER discard the vegetables cooked with the meat. Last weekend we had braised beef and the veg in the pan were sooo tasty. It would be a shameless waste of food and flavour to have put them in the bin!

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  3. Judy, I think some cognac would work fine (cognac is good any just about anything!) but you could also just leave it out if you don't have calva.

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  4. Jean, you are a woman after my own heart. All that vegetable fiber thrown out -- never! Hope your recovery is proceeding smoothly.

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  5. I was hoping that you were cooking up something good today and you were! I like the idea of finish cooking the chicken in the oven. DH would like this dish for sure since he likes rice so much.

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  6. There's only one word for it: BRILLIANT !!

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  7. You should have your own cooking show.

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  8. Hello Starman, that sounds like it would be a lot of work. Today's post was already a stretch. I need to slow down, now that I am in retirement, not take on more responsibilities. Thanks though.

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  9. You? Slow down? Right. I'm curious about what kind of pan you use to saute and then roast the chicken. I feel the need for new kitchen equipment coming on!

    ...Susie

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  10. Susie, in the last photo in the post you can see the pan I cooked the cut-up chicken in.It's called a sauteuse — I see some advertised here. We bought ours at Macy's in SF many years ago. It's all in stainless steel and it doesn't have a long handle, so it can go right into the oven.

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  11. Susie, I bought a few weeks ago a Danish sauteuse "Scanpan" in Indian Wells, CA. It's absolutely great. It's non-stick, you can use metal with it, but not recommended, it's got a glass cover and all that can go in the oven. It's somewhat expensive, but it's worth it. I have other "Scanpan" pans and I love them.

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  12. It's chm above. Blogger didn't want to record my handle! LOL

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  13. If you're interested, the link for Scanpan is:
    http://www.scanpancookware.com/

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  14. I have visted this site and got lots of information than that of i visited before a month.

    work from home

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