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Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 24 August 2018 at 20:01
From Time/Life’s Foods of the World - The Cooking of Provincial France, 1968:

Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme
Casserole-Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

To serve 4:

3.5 -to 4-pound roasting chicken
4 tablespoons soft butter
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 pound salt pork, diced
2 cups water
5 tablespoons butter
16 peeled white onions, about 1 inch in diameter
6 peeled carrots, cut in 2-inch cylinders or olive shapes
16 one-inch potato balls, or potatoes cut in 2-inch olive shapes
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Bouquet garni made of 4 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied together

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wash the chicken quickly under cold running water and dry it thoroughly inside and out with paper towels. Cream 2 tablespoons of soft butter until it is fluffy, and beat in the garlic and thyme. Spread the seasoned butter inside the chicken. Truss the chicken and rub the outside with the remaining 2 tablespoons of soft butter.

Blanch the salt pork dice by simmering them in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes; drain on paper towels and pat dry. In a heavy, enameled oval casserole just large enough to hold the chicken comfortably, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over moderate heat and in it brown the pork dice, stirring them or shaking the casserole frequently, until they are crisp and golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels. In the rendered fat left in the casserole, brown the chicken on all sides. Remove from heat and pour off all but a thin film of fat from the casserole. Return the chicken and the browned pork dice to it and set aside.

In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat and in it cook the onions, carrots, and potatoes, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until coated with butter and lightly colored. Remove the vegetables and arrange around the chicken. Season with salt and pepper, add the bouquet garni, and cover the casserole. If the cover isn't snug, drape a piece of foil over the chicken before covering it.

On top of the stove, heat the casserole until the fat begins to splutter. Cook the chicken on the middle shelf of the oven, basting it every 20 minutes with the juices that will accumulate in the casserole. After 1.25 hours, start testing the chicken by lifting it with a wooden spoon inserted in its tail opening. When the juices that run out are yellow, it is done.

To serve, transfer the chicken to a heated platter and arrange the vegetables attractively around it. Discard the bouquet garni and skim as much surface fat as possible from the sauce left in the casserole. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning. The chicken may be carved in the kitchen or at the table. Serve the sauce separately.
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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 August 2018 at 19:39
I am making this right now, and just put it in the oven to roast a moment ago. In this post, I'll outline the few minor alterations that I made; I'll then get some preparation notes and first impressions down, for the record.

The chicken I used was locally grown by a nearby Hutterite colony, and based on previous experience with their poultry, it is of first-rate quality. The chicken is slightly bigger than called for in the recipe, so I added "just a little extra" to all ingredients, along with even a little more extra garlic than that, purely on a whim. I did not have fresh bay leaves and parsley, so I abandoned the bouquet garni idea and simply used these ingredients dried, adding them to the dish right before I put it in the oven. Finally, I am not a fan of small, whole onions in dishes, so I used a large onion, coarsely diced. Otherwise, my ingredients conformed to the recipe.

As far as preparation, I stuck very closely to the procedure as-written, under the presumption that the steps in the recipe are important in order to achieve the goal of "keeping it French." I even attempted using my melon baller to make the potato balls, as described, although they didn't turn out very well. Next time, I will just cut them into cubes approximately the same size, which I am sure will be fine, albeit a little less refined.

In private correspondence, Brook suggested rubbing the butter under the chicken's skin, rather than on top of it, as doing so makes a big difference in how the chicken is flavoured. I was already toying with the idea, but was concerned that it might not be true to the region and cuisine that I am attempting today; however, Brook's explanation that it is an old method - going back at least to the 18th Century - convinced me to go ahead with it.

The recipe says to use an oval casserole, but for this project I elected to use my trusty 6.5-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven from Tramontina. I thought we had kitchen string, but it turned out that we didn't; because of this, I did not truss the chicken, but we did pile the vegetables around the sides of the chicken, which had almost the same effect as tying it up due to the round sides keeping everything close.

Otherwise, I followed the instructions to a "T."

First impressions: with a little bit of mise en place, this recipe is quite easy to prepare in an efficient manner. It seems to me that each step is designed to build layers of flavour, so if anyone tries this I would recommend that you stick as closely as you can to the instructions; the one exception would be to follow Brook's advice regarding the buttering of the chicken. There might be other improvements and refinements that one could choose to employ, but I wouldn't say they are necessary. I am not 100% certain of the exact origin or region for this dish, but I am quite sure it is meant to be rural, rustic and just plain good. As I type this, the aroma wafting from the kitchen is heavenly, and promises a very good experience indeed. I am very much looking forward to the finished meal.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 August 2018 at 21:14
Well, the verdict is in and this was a winner, for sure; the simple ingredients and the steps of preparation ensured that this meal would be nearly everything a chicken dinner should be.

The chicken itself was tender, juicy and packed with flavour; I only used a little salt in preparation, but the balance was just right, along with the other seasonings. The vegetables tasted great, as expected, and the sauce tied it all together nicely, packed with an abundance of rich, chicken-y goodness.

There are two things I might do differently next time, but they are not flavour-related or a result of any flaw in the recipe; they are simply a couple of steps to nudge the dish toward what I might personally prefer. The first would be to either roast the chicken uncovered for the last 30 minutes or so (or maybe hit it with the broiler for a few minutes right at the end), just to crisp up the skin a bit. The second would be to thicken the sauce a bit via reduction and/or possibly a roux. I do not know if this would run counter to the intentions of the recipe, so I am not recommending these steps as part of the dish; however, doing so would, in my mind, make this the perfect roast chicken dinner, because all of the flavours are definitely there, and they are wonderful.

Please do give this a try and let me know what you think!
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