Poulet en Cocotte, Modified

January 13, 2009

I’ve made this dish at least a dozen times since I first saw the recipe in Cook’s Illustrated a year ago. It’s a very simple, set-and-forget procedure:

  1. Lightly brown a whole chicken in a dutch oven with a little olive oil – 5 minutes for the breast side, 8 minutes for the bottom. Add a chopped onion, chopped celery, a few garlic cloves, some rosemary and a bay leaf at the start of the browning.
  2. When the vegetables have browned a bit, cover the pot with a sheet of foil and then the lid. Place the pot at the bottom of a 250 degree oven and cook for 90 to 110 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.
  3. Remove from the oven, remove the chicken from the pot and let it rest under foil for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain the cooking juices, skim off the fat, add some lemon juice. (“A squeeze of lemon juice will always save your ass.” – Eric Ripert)
  5. Serve the chicken with the juice as a light sauce.

Chicken cooked this way has a very concentrated flavor, but it also has flabby skin:

poulet1

Yesterday I was watching the “Roast Chicken” episode of  In Search of Perfection. Heston Blumenthal also slow-cooks his chicken, but solves the soft skin problem by searing the roasted bird at very high heat in oil for less than two minutes. I thought I give that a try. While the chicken rested, I wiped out the dutch oven and returned it to the stove, letting it heat up on the largest burner for 10 minutes.

Once the chicken had rested, I splashed some oil in the pot and followed it immediately with the chicken. After two minutes, I indeed had very crispy skin – mostly stuck to the pot bottom. It wasn’t a total loss:

poulet2

During the resting phase I also made some braised carrots, using Blumenthal’s method: medium low heat with a few tablespoons of butter – no water or salt – tightly covered. He claims that the carrots will release enough liquid to prevent burning. He was right.

Final plating: chicken (with skin from the bottom), sauce, carrots, and some re-crisped leftover roasted fingerling potatoes.

poulet3

Yes, the plate needs something green. They can’t all be beauty shots.

I’ll try the crisping step again the next time I make this, but I will pat the chicken dry before adding it to the hot oil, since it had accumulated moisture from sitting under the foil. I might also skip the foil altogether and let the chicken skin air dry.

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