BETTER IN FRENCH

Week of April 9 – April 15, 2018

greens on bread

Monday:                   Greens and Beans with Fried Bread

tacos

Tuesday:                   Ground Pork Carnitas Tacos

beet salad

Wednesday:            Leftovers with Beet, Avocado, Citrus Salad

asparagus spaghetti

Thursday:                 Asparagus Spaghetti with Meyer Lemon and Calabrian Chile

snow

April Snow

Friday:                       Leftover Spaghetti (Beez out of town – Rusty and I moping)

avocado toast

Avocado Toast with Fatoush – Sunday night

Saturday:                  Italian Sausage and Peppers

Poulet

Sunday:                     Poulet-au-Pot / Avocado Toast with Fatoush

(Pittsburgh Potatoes from Janice next week – I promise)

I could just as well have entitled this week’s blog “Cooking for the Kids,” since the highlight of my week was cooking Sunday dinner for Billy and Emily.  But you’ll understand the title, if you read the entire blog.

Beez was out of town for most of the week, leaving two very sad dogs – myself and Rusty – back in the hood.  On Sunday, Billy and Emily came out to rescue me from myself, to watch the Pens destroy the Flyers (condolences to the Chesbroughs) and to join me for dinner.

Back in January, I would have thought that by mid-April we would be grilling and drinking beer (wine for Emily) on the deck.  But it snowed three times last week (it’s already snowed four times this week), and we ended up eating a cozy one-pot meal that was, perhaps, even better than last week’s terrine.  This dish was another one of Mimi Thorisson’s recipes, so I found myself rereading parts of her book for a quote in this week’s blog.  Mimi, or her editor, writes like a pro, but is neither lapidary nor rhetorical, so there is not a line or paragraph to excerpt that would knock you down.  But let me quote her, briefly, as a lead in to this week’s ‘Keeper:’

“Some things sound better in French than in English.” – Mimi Thorisson

To which I can only reply, “Oui,” and pass along to you her recipe for Poule-au-Pot which, in English, is ‘Chicken in a Pot.’  This is the most flavorful chicken we’ve cooked this year and if you know us then you know that we have cooked some mighty flavorful chickens.  Poultry for miles around know to steer clear of Casa Stuarti lest they end up being served for dinner or lunch.  But this chicken, which isn’t even browned, surprised us with its taste.  And since it looks like its going to keep snowing for the rest of the year, you’ll want to cook this cozy dish for your family and friends soon.

Pout-au-Pot

Poule-au-Pot

(adapted from French Country Cooking by Mimi Thorisson)

Timing:                                  Between 90 minutes and 2 hours

(Depending on your knife skills and the size of the chicken)

Ingredients:                                     Serves 4-6

For the chicken –

1 Whole Chicken (3.25 lbs.) We used a 4.5 lb. chicken which meant that we had to cook it a bit longer and that we had to turn it upside down from time to time since we did not have a pot large enough to immerse it.  A stock pot would have worked.

NOTE:  The recipe calls for chopped chicken liver and gizzards.  Our chicken did not have the typical giblet package tucked into the cavity and it tasted wonderful.  If you have the liver and the gizzard, so much the better.

4 ounces stale bread
1 Cup whole milk
5 ounces sliced ham – preferably Bayonne – finely chopped.  (we used tavern ham from Whole Foods and a little mortadella)
5 ounces bacon, finely chopped (ours was not so finely chopped because it was too warm)
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped and 3 cloves left whole
2 large eggs, beaten
Leaves from a small bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
2 medium leeks, white part only
2 medium carrots, peeled    Note:  we halved the leeks and chopped them, and we cut the carrots into manageable pieces
1 celery stalk
1 onion, studded with 8 whole cloves
1 bouquet garni (traditionally a few sprigs of parsley, a sprig of sage, rosemary and thyme and a bay leaf, tie together – we didn’t have the sage so we sprinkled some rubbed sage onto the bundle)
Fine sea salt (Diamond Kosher salt will work)
Ground black pepper

For the mushroom sauce (make this sauce – it is spectacular)

8 tablespoons butter
10 ounces white mushrooms (we quartered or halved these, depending on their size, to make them bite-sized)
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
¾ cup all-purpose flour –  Note:  I think this is a mismeasurement and I’m guessing about ¼ cup would be fine.  I ended up using over a cup of chicken stock to loosen the flour and it was still a thick gravy
Fine sea salt (Diamond Kosher salt will work)
Ground black pepper

Prep:

About 1 hour before cooking, take the chicken out of the refrigerator, dry it off and let it come closer to room temperature.

Measure and chop all ingredients.

Soak the bread in the milk for 10 minutes or so.

In a large bowl, combine the ham, bacon, shallots, chopped garlic, eggs and parsley.  If you have chicken giblets, finely chop the gizzard and liver and add to the bowl.  Squeeze the milk from the bread and crumble the bread into the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Loosen skin over chicken breasts, thighs and legs so that you can put some of the stuffing under the skin.

Gently push the stuffing under the skin and spread it as well as you can (without tearing the skin) over the legs, thighs and breast of the chicken.

You will have most of the stuffing left over – pack it into the cavity of the chicken and tie the legs together with twine.

Cook the Chicken:

In a Dutch oven or large pot (stock pot), pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken – maybe 4 quarts – add the leeks, carrots, celery, clove-studded onion, bouquet garni and the whole garlic cloves.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Now – and carefully, since the water is boiling – lower the chicken into the pot.  It should be totally covered with water – if your pot, like ours, doesn’t allow that, you’ll have to turn the chicken around a few times during the cooking.

Now cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently until cooked through – 75 to 90 minutes.

Cook the Mushroom Sauce:

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high.  Add the mushrooms and onions and cook until golden – about 5 minutes.  You may have to turn the heat down a bit to avoid burning.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter over medium.  Off the heat, add the flour in all at once, mixing well with a whisk.

Return the pot to medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns golden – 8 minutes or so.

Now whisk in 1/3 cup of the chicken cooking liquid to thicken the sauce.  We needed to whisk in much more than 1/3 cup.

Scrape the mushroom mixture into the sauce, adding more stock if needed.  Season with salt and pepper.  (Don’t forget to taste and add more seasoning if needed.)

Serve the Chicken:

Remove the chicken from the broth and let cool for 3 minutes or so.

Butcher the chicken into serving pieces.

Remove the stuffing from the cavity and slice it into rounds.

Arrange the chicken pieces, stuffing and vegetables on a serving platter and drizzle more some of the broth.

Serve with the mushroom sauce on the side.

3 thoughts on “BETTER IN FRENCH

  1. That chicken sounds wonderful – Monday, we go out (can’t wait), but next time you come, I’m hoping it will be to Annapolis so you can cook for us! 😉

    Like

  2. Bill,
    I love your blog. When can I come over to taste test? Ha ha Mark DeAndrea

    My wife just made home made gnocchis, love them.

    Like

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