Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Poulet en Cocotte

Have I learned nothing from cooking a turkey? Always check the temperature of poultry! Why did I think I was somehow eyeballing doneness? So, as I am sure you have figured out, I overcooked the darn bird. The breast was dry, but the rest was juicy. The gravy was awesome, so that made up for the aridity. Sort of. Not really.

A simple French bistro dish of a whole chicken cooked in a pot! Poulet en Cocotte. It is really simple. AND ... this is the first time I have cooked a whole chicken! What? I know. Amazing. This was, therefore, the first time I carved up a chicken. I have carved a few turkeys, so it wasn't hard. And I don't mind fishing necks and other things out of the cavity. I held onto the liver and neck for an hour thinking I would make pate and stock. Then I realized, Who am I kidding?

You brown the (salted and peppered) bird in 1T olive oil, 6 minutes on the breast side, with the aromatics scattered around it (1/2 cup onions, 1 celery rib, 6 whole garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, one sprig rosemary ... or thyme, you know me so well!); then flip for 6-8 minutes for second side. And, golly, when will I learn that if Best Recipe tells you to jump up and down in step 3, you better do it! So it says to insert a wooden spoon in the cavity to flip for browning the second side. What do I do? I try to use tongs and nearly wrench a leg off. Dummy. When I did what the instructions say! it flipped without incident.
Everything gets nice and carmelized as the meat browns, and your kitchen smells like Thanksgiving! Once you are all browned, put heavy duty foil over the pot, clamp on the lid, and into the 250 oven until the breast is 160 and the thigh is 170, 80-110 minutes. Do yourself a favor and check the temperature. Who eyeballs a chicken? Can a body even do that?

You take the chicken out to rest and the juices are your sauce, plus 1 tsp. lemon juice. Dump all the remains into a sieve and press to extract all the liquids. Since the aromatics have been cooking for so long, they just sort of mush in the sieve. Then skim off as much fat as possible.
Good to go! The sauce is thin, but good. The skin wasn't crunchy at all, so I took it off. I know! More garnish! The poulet goes nicely with rice and braised vegetables, which will be my next installment because they deserve their very own entry.

As I mentioned previously, for a dish like this you must start early enough in the evening. Josh and I sat down with our chicken at 9:30pm. Yikes. Now, if I had checked the temperature, it may have been only 9.

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