Thursday, December 13, 2007

French Bistro Chicken in a Pot

I tried another recipe from the recent Cooks Illustrated last evening. This was the French Bistro Chicken in a Pot. The idea is that if you cook a chicken in just its own juices inside a dutch oven. It will come up moist, juicy, flavorful and all round excellent. Again the folks at Cooks Illustrated are right. This is extremely straightforward and absolutely delicious. Here's what I did.

1 5lb roasting chicken - innards removed, patted dry inside and out and salted/peppered liberally
1T canola oil
1 Red onion - medium dice
2 Stalks celery - medium dice (more on celery in the next posting)
2 Bay leaves
1 Head of garlic, individual cloves peeled and kept whole
1 Sprig of rosemary

Pre-heat the oven to 275F. Put a rack low in the oven (and make sure it is not on a pizza stone or other heat store). Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until smoking. Brown the chicken breast side down in the oil. After 3 or 4 minutes in the hot oil, toss in the aromatics. After another few minutes, turn the chicken over and allow the back to brown. Make sure the garlic doesn't burn by occasionally scraping the aromatics around. You want some caramelization on the onions and celery for extra flavor. Cover the top of the dutch oven with foil and then put the lid on. This provides a better seal than just putting the lid on. Put the dutch oven and contents into the oven and leave it there for 1 hour 40 minutes. It is cooked when the breast meat registers 165 on your thermometer.
Remove from the oven and set the chicken to rest on a carving board. Tent it with foil (I used the foil that had been sealing the dutch oven). Strain the pan juices into a fat separator and press all the liquid out of the aromatics. Discard the aromatics - they have given their all. Leave for a few minutes for the fat to rise to the top. Decant the pan juices into a small saucepan and put over very low heat to stay warm.
After the chicken has rested for 15 or so minutes, carve it. The skin will look awful, by the way, so I serve it without the skin. I removed the breasts whole and sliced them crosswise. Take the juices pan off heat and squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Serve the chicken breast pieces on hot plates with a little of the pan juice poured over them.
When I made this, Madame and I shared a single breast (the advantage of a large chicken), and we served 1/2 a spaghetti squash that I had microwaved with salt, pepper and a little butter.
This was a spectacular treatment for chicken - definitely worth repeating.

The dutch oven has to be a pretty big one, since you want to be able to get the whole chicken into it. You can use a pottery oven, but since you can't use that on top of the stove, you have to dirty another pan. The Emerilware cast iron dutch oven that I bought for the bread is too small for this recipe :-(. I reverted to my trusty Le Creuset pan (with the broken knob on the kid)


Anonymous said...

I made this for a party we had on Christmas day (beats takeout Chinese food and a movie *lol*) and it was TO DIE FOR. The one thing i did differently was to take it out a few degrees early and let it rest. Then I put it on a baking sheet with a rack in a very hot (500 F) oven for about 10 minutes to brown. That took care of the problem with the skin. I used my 7 quart Le Creuset and it did just fine.

Chris Bird said...

Excellent, I will add that to the repertoire!

Catherine said...

Great French bistro chicken recipe. I would just replace onion with garlic :)

French Course