18 November 2017

Food, anyone? Let's have chicken.

Life goes on. We've had a série noire of unexpected and therefore unplanned house repairs and maintenance issues over the past few weeks. Warning lights have come on in cars, drains have started to overflow, computers have gone down, debit cards have been deactivated, lights have suddenly gone dark, leaks have sprung, and the power has failed... For too long, it has seemed never-ending. The good news is that it feels like the situation is coming back to normal now.

So what are hapless homeowners to do? Eat, that's what. Healthy food, if possible, with wine and bread. One wintertime dish (these are dark, chilly, foggy days here in northern France) is the classic poule au pot — a chicken in the pot. In other words, a one-pot boiled dinner of chicken with flavorful vegetables including leeks, carrots, onions, potatoes, and turnips or parsnips. Nowadays, the pot you cook the chicken and vegetables in is likely to be a modern one: a slow-cooker or mijoteuse. And you're more likely to be cooking a tender chicken (un poulet) than a tough old stewing hen (une poule). So it's a poulet à la mijoteuse rather than a poule au pot. Adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Put the chicken or stewing hen into the slow-cooker crock along with some leeks, carrots, and onions. Add black peppercorns, allspice berries (piment de la Jamaïque), two or three whole cloves, and a teaspoon of dried thyme for extra flavor (I put them all in a spice ball). Pour on water and maybe some white wine, and throw in a couple of bay leaves. Cover the chicken with liquid if you can, or not entirely if there isn't enough room in the crock (it will still cook). Turn the slow-cooker on low and let the bird cook for four or five hours, until it and the vegetables are done.

Now you have a big slow-cooker crock full of good chicken broth as well as a tender chicken and some tender vegetables. Toward the end of the cooking time, you can add vegetables like turnips, parsnips, and potatoes to the crock. Or you can cook them separately — in a steamer, for example.

To the left is the chicken as it looked when it came out of the slow-cooker after about five hours of simmering at low temperature.

Here's a finishing touch. Put the cooked chicken in a baking dish, surround it with cooked vegetables, spoon a little of the chicken broth over all, being sure to get some of the fat floating on the surface of the liquid. Set the dish in a hot oven for 30 to 45 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Let it brown though.

Optionally, you can also make gravy (in the form of a velouté sauce) with butter, flour, and the broth. Another option is to serve rice and the gravy with the chicken and vegetables instead of potatoes.





9 comments:

  1. That looks delicious. I have half a chicken to cook tonight, and think that may be the way to do it. I have veg to make soup, so I could combine the two and just whizz the whole lot together when I've taken the chicken out. Thanks for the idea - two meals with half the effort!

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  2. I wouldn't have known to brown everything in the oven. Nice idea!

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    1. The chicken and the vegetables are good when golden brown, both visually and in terms of taste. Today or tomorrow, we'll have gravy, rice, and more chicken and vegetables for lunch.

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  3. My late neighbour used to make a stunning Poule au Pot. She would stuff the bird with an egg rich stuffing made with bread and the liver from the bird, etc. Bloody marvelous.

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    1. I like the idea of that stuffing. Next time.

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  4. So many problems at once. Maybe you had a ghost. Hope you get a long period of peace. Your chicken looks tasty.

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    1. Everything seems to happen at once. Tomorrow I have to take the Citroën in for service. I hope the mechanics don't find anything that needs to be repaired, but I bet they will. It may need some brake work. Since I decided last summer to keep the old Peugeot, I've had more than a thousand euros of work done on it — new clutch, ball joints, etc. I think it's been worth it, because for the amount we drive it, it's a lot less expensive to keep the old car running than to invest in a new or used one. And it would be a lot of trouble to go out and find a used one to buy at a good price. As for the household repairs, well, those have to be done. At least we are now sure that the light fixture in the bathroom, which we just recently had installed, was not at fault in the two power outages we had last week. It was just a coincidence, and a strange one at that, both times the power went out came just as we turned on that bathroom light. What are the odds?

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  5. I have a teeny-tiny (3-4 pound) chicken in the freezer that I've been wondering about. This is the perfect solution. Merci.

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