French Chicken in a Pot

This is another one of those recipes with a fuzzy background; I’m not sure where it originated (maybe Cook’s Illustrated?), but I can tell you where it ended up: in mah belly!

I use my gigantosaurus 6.75 quart Le Creuset. It’s almost a crime to own such a pot and not cook this chicken in it. It’s that good. Also, it’s one of those meals that has very little hands-on time, but looks really impressive in the end. I love that!

You will need:

  • One whole chicken, giblets removed (but save them — here’s why)
  • Half an onion
  • A stalk or two of celery
  • Olive oil for pan-frying
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • Fresh garlic – I used jarred (gasp!)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Now:

  1. Put an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat your oven to 250 F
  2. In a food processor or by hand, chop your onion and celery — size doesn’t really matter — and add in the garlic
  3. Unwrap and pat the chicken dry with paper towels
  4. Heat a couple Tbsp. of olive oil in your dutch oven till hot, then ease in the chicken, breast side down, watching for splattering oil
  5. Sprinkle in your onion/celery/garlic mix along with some salt and pepper on and around the chicken
  6. Cook until the chicken is lightly browned (about 5 minutes), then stick a wooden spoon in the chicken and flip it over, breast side up
  7. Repeat browning on the other side
  8. Remove the pot from the heat, then cover with foil then the lid (we’re going for a mega-seal here)
  9. Now slide the pot into the oven and cook until breast registers 160 and thickest part of the thigh registers 175; this took me nearly two hours, for a 5.5 lb bird. If you’re using a smaller chicken (say around four pounds), check after an hour. A medium size one (up to five pounds or so) will be somewhere around 90 minutes, but always check the temp to be sure
  10. Transfer the chicken to a carving board, tent it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes

While the bird is resting (because, let’s face it, it’s had a hard day), you can make up some gravy:

  1. Strain the pot juices through a strainer or cheesecloth into a fat separator; you can throw away the onion/celery/garlic now
  2. Let that sit about 5 minutes to let the fat separate, then pour the juice into a saucepan — ideally you’ll have about 3/4 cup of juices
  3. Add about 1 tsp. lemon juice to the pan and simmer while The Yankee carves the chicken (have I mentioned how handy it is to have a husband who used to be a butcher?)
  4. Serve the gravy/sauce with the chicken. You can also thicken it with a bit of cornstarch* if you’re so inclined.

I served this with roasted broccoli and — what else — artisan bread.

Finally: stick the chicken giblets, the other half of the onion and a couple celery stalks in a bag or container and stash them in the fridge or freezer. Homemade chicken stock to come!

*Cornstarch now always makes me think of Eugene on Top Chef protesting, “Loooootts of housewives use cornstarch!” And I do, Eugene. 😉

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