When my sister’s children were young, she once had an au pair from France. I remember talking to her extensively about food, and at one point she asked me, “What have you Americans done with your chicken? It has no flavor.”
Well, we’ve factory farmed the flavor out of it, for one thing. But lately, you can find better and better chicken out and about, at farmers markets, serious butchers, and places like Whole Foods.
I’ve been buying my chicken and red meat from Wallace Farms lately–they’re a great one-source stop for grass-fed beef and humanely raised, natural chicken and pork, too. If you live in Iowa or Chicago, find out more. They deliver at drop-off points monthly.
For the chicken, here’s a recipe, from the Bonne Femme Cookbook, that I found one year when I was hanging out in Collioure. I went to the Saturday market, and there was an elderly woman selling used books, including scores of used cookbooks. For 50 centimes, I bought a book from the 70s on French provincial cooking. I ended up cooking from it again and again, both in France and at home.
This particular recipe intrigued me because it involves roasting chicken in a pot on top of the stove. The only cooking liquid used is its own cooking juices, and my, does it ever get tender and roasty-toasty. In fact, it’s a best-of-both-worlds combo between a roast and a braise. You get that richness, tenderness, and flavor that you love in a braise, but that roasted flavor that only roasting can bring.
As with many French recipes, the pan juices become the base of a fine little sauce. Serve this with pureed potatoes (page 246 in the book; made the French way, through a ricer), or (if you don’t have a ricer) Celery Root and Potato Purée (page 347) and you simply can’t go wrong. As always, use the best chicken you can find. Enjoy!
P.S.: I love using the Le Creuset 3 1/2-Quart Braiser for this, but a Dutch oven or a deep, heavy skillet with a lid will work, too.
P.P.S.: If you’re looking for more recipes for your braiser, here’s a list of great braising recipes in the Bonne Femme Cookbook. And also check out my new Braiser Cookbook, an ebook available on Amazon.com.
Pot-Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms and Chervil
Makes 4 servings
2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, legs, and/or thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chervil or 1 tablespoon snipped fresh tarragon and 1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley (or use any combo of parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil)
1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Melt the butter with the oil in a 3 1/2-quart braiser or large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour off all but a sheen of fat from the pan.
2. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, skin side down. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let the chicken cook for 8 minutes. By this time, there will be some fat in the pot; turn the chicken pieces skin side up and spoon the fat over them. Adjust the heat to a point between low and medium-low (you want the chicken to continue cooking, but not to brown too much more). Cover the pot and cook the chicken until it is done, about 30 minutes more, uncovering the pot to spoon the fat over the chicken after 10 minutes, then again after 20 minutes.
3. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the mushrooms to the juice in the pot and cook, stirring, until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan; stir with a whisk to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and boil until the wine is reduced to a few spoonfuls, about 1 minute. Stir in the cream and cook briefly, until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the chervil.
4. Arrange the chicken pieces on four plates, spoon the sauce on top, and serve.
• Chicken Recipes in the Le Creuset Braiser
• Braises for the Fall and Winter (Great for Le Creuset Braisers)
• What is a braiser? What is a French oven? Should you invest?
• Winter Weather Again? How about Some Spring Lamb?