“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”
That basically seems to sum up the driving force behind most of my recipes… including this one pot chicken (aka “poulet cocotte”) that I invented out of sheer desperation while we were staying with boyfriend’s grandmother last summer in France, whose oven was broken at the time.
I used ingredients we had on hand, as usual… and crossing my fingers, I hoped for the best. Seriously… for a girl raised on roast chickens, the idea of sticking a whole bird into a pot of water had my stomach churning at first. I envisioned an awful nightmare of floating, washed-out grey chicken skin and other elementary school cafeteria-like horrors.
BUT as it turned out, the chicken turned out to be the best chicken I’d ever had… as the bf’s gran put it, “C’est un délice!”
Seriously… no other words needed.
Anyway, here’s the recipe for my chicken. Normally there’s supposed to be celery in it, but as I didn’t have any on hand today… well, make lemonade right?
Extra-virgin olive oil
One whole chicken
2-3 medium sized carrots, chopped
2-3 celery sticks, chopped
1 large onion, diced
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of unsalted peas, drained (1 cup of frozen peas works just as well)
4-6 mushrooms, chopped (I use white or cremini)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp of herbes de provence (you can sub with thyme, rosemary and oregano)
Smoked paprika (I’m sure any will do)
2 cups of water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 dashes each of black pepper and white pepper
salt to taste (normally I skip this… the bouillon cube gives enough salt as it is!)
Wash and pat your chicken dry with paper towel. Trim the fat from it, or don’t…
Sprinkle paprika all over your chicken and rub it into the skin with your hands. On med-high temp, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large pot that can comfortably hold your chicken. Sear the chicken on both sides until the skin is golden-brown (about 3 minutes). Shaking the pot around while your sear helps to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick or burn. If it does, immediately scrape the burned bits from the pot with a wooden spoon.
When the chicken is seared, remove it from the pot and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and add a little more olive oil if necessary to cook your onions, garlic, carrots and celery so they don’t stick and burn. Fry for 3 minutes until onions are soft and fragrant.
Place your chicken back into the pot on top of the veggies and add the herbes de provence, black pepper, white pepper, a couple more dashes of paprika, the bay leaves and the bouillon cube with two cups of water. Bring to a boil, stirring gently around the chicken, then lower the heat to med-low. Simmer your chicken with the lid on, checking up on it every so often to make sure things aren’t sticking and burning. Turn the chicken over once every 15 minutes.
After 45 minutes, add your mushrooms, peas and remove the lid so some of the liquid can evaporate. You can jack up the heat at this point to med-high to help the evaporation process, but if you do so, you MUST keep an eye out on your chicken and veggies, stirring often to make sure that nothing burns.
After 15 minutes, check your chicken to make sure it’s cooked… you should be able to pierce a knife into the breast quite easily. If all is good, remove the chicken from the pot and let it sit a few minutes while you let the liquid to continue evaporating… keep stirring to make sure nothing burns.
I always remove the skin before serving, but you can serve it as is. I also serve the veggies with the juice together, but you could just as easily make a gravy be separating the two and thickening the juice with some flour or cornstarch and salt to taste, especially if you’re serving up mashed potatoes on the side.
*You can make an awesome chicken stock, soup, stew or pot pie out of leftovers. If you’re going to the stock, keep all your bones and skin. For the soup, stew or pie, be sure to remove all the skin and bones first.