It was so chilly yesterday morning that I decided to cook a typically wintertime dish for my lunch. I had bought a 3 lb. chicken at the supermarket on Friday, without a definite idea for cooking it. I had vegetables. I had broth and wine. So into a big stock pot it went, making me a nice poule au pot for my main meal. Well, a poulet au pot, really. There are leftovers for soup or sandwiches.
A poule is an old hen — what we used to call a "stewing hen" in North Carolina and is known as une poule au sol here. Stewing hens need long, slow cooking to tenderize the meat. That makes for a very tasty broth, with the right seasonings and vegetables. What I had was a poulet, which is a "spring chicken" and doesn't require such a long cooking time. Still, I simmered the poulet for about 2½ hours on low heat. The cooking liquid was about a pint of chicken broth, a quart of water, and half a bottle of dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc).
With the chicken I put in cut-up vegetables — two large carrots, four celery stalks, five garlic cloves, six small onions, and eight mushrooms — along with some salt, bay leaves, allspice berries, and black peppercorns. I just put everything in a big pot and let it simmer, without first browning the chicken or the vegetables. The important thing is to keep the liquid at a very low simmer so that the chicken doesn't fall apart. It helps to have it tightly trussed up, and they are sold that was in French supermarkets.
The chicken, vegetables, and broth are delicious right out of the pot. You can add cream to the poaching liquid if you want, and you can thicken it with a flour roux or a cornstarch slurry if you like it that way. To give it a special goodness, you can take the chicken out of the liquid, put it on a baking dish or pan, and brush it with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and other spices (smoked paprika is good) or herbs and brown it in a hot oven for a few minutes before cutting it up and
serving eating it.