Friday, August 12, 2011
This may be my favorite recipe. It was supposedly beloved by that loveable Hugenot Henri IV, but its provenance is pure paysan. It combines the singular heartiness of single-pot cookery with a brightness of individual flavor that a whole kitchen of Ferran Adrià imitators with their agar and basket whisks couldn't achieve. It is--especially if you grow your own herbs and vegetables and if you bake your own bread--cheap; this recipe will feed six people for less than $20. It's called poule au pot, quite literally chicken in a pot, a sort of poultrified counterpart to the more recognizeably French pot-au-feu. The principle is the same. In this case, a young chicken is stuffed with something midway between a forcemeat panade and a bread stuffing and placed in a pot with vegetables, seasoning, and cold water. It is brought to a boil, then covered and simmered for hours. There is a classic sauce made of shallot, cornichon, and hardboiled egg; if you were to pick a wine, you could do worse than a simple red from Irouléguy.
1 young chicken, no more than 4 lbs.
for the stuffing
1/4 lb ground pork
1/2 cup diced bacon (dry rub), pancetta, or lardons
1 1/2 cup day-old bread, soaked in milk and then squeezed dry.
fresh herbs (whatever is available; I use lavendar, thyme, fennel, and wild marjorum)
salt and pepper to taste
for the pot
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and halved
1 summer squash, such as zucchini, halved and cut in thick half-coins
1 green or savoy cabage, outer layer removed, heart cut into sixths
3 leaks, trimmed and halved
a handful small shallots, peeled and whole
1 bouquet garni of the same herbs used in the stuffing
whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
for the sauce
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/2 cup cornichons, finely diced
1 hard-boiled egg, finely diced
salt and ground pepper to taste
In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, render the bacon fat in some clarified butter. Then increase the heat to high. Brown the ground pork, then add the bread and herbs, mashing together as you cook. Remove from heat; let cool for ten or so minutes; mix with one egg and light salt and pepper.
Stuff the chicken. Really, you know, fist it in there. It's going to come out as a kind of sausage, ahem. Sew up the bird's cavity and then truss its legs and wings. Put it in a good dutch oven or similar heavy pot. Surround it with the raw ingredients from for the pot. Cover in cold water, generously salted. Place on high heat and bring just to boil, skimming any foam or froth that rises to the top. Reduce heat. Simmer for 3 hours on the lowest flame.
To make the sauce, simply combine the shallot, cornichons, and egg with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. A trick is to undercook the egg; the slightly underdone yolk will act as an emulsifying agent.
To serve, remove the chicken from the pot to a cutting board. Halve along the breast and remove the stuffing. Cut the chicken into large serving pieces. Slice the stuffing into rounds. Pour the remaining ingredients through a seive, catching the broth in a bowl below. Arrange the cooked vegetables, meat, and stuffing on a large serving platter and drizzle lightly with the sauce. Serve with cups of the clear broth to start or on the side. Can be accompanied by a simple green salad and a plain rustic boule.