A very special chicken deserves very special care, and I can think of no better technique to accentuate all the wild, bug-fed chickeny goodness of a farm chicken than en cocotte.
I got turned on to this old-school French method of cooking chicken from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated, which touted it as one of the “Discoveries that will change the way I cook”! Well, it wasn’t quite as revolutionary as all that, but it is a great way to cook chicken.
The process is simple: Start by browning the chicken in a large pot to get the flavours going, flip it, sprinkle some mirepoix around to keep the chicken company, cover and let it sweat in the oven for an hour or so. Really simple, really tasty and the meat is far more tender than if the bird was conventionally roasted. As an added bonus you have a ready-made fond for gravy and only one pot to clean!
The only specialized bit of kitchen gear needed to make poulet en cocotte is the actual cocotte itself. The absolute best vessel for this endeavor is a Dutch oven. Crystal got me a big fire-apple red Lodge Enamel/Cast Iron oven a few Christmases back and I’ve never gone back to the stainless pots for jobs like these. Like a Wok, I think every house should have one.
Chicken in a Pot (Serves 4-6)
- 4.95 lb. (2.25kg) Free-Range Farm Chicken (Cleaned and trussed)
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 Tbls. (30ml) Olive Oil
- 1 Small Leek (Whites only, chopped, approx. 92g)
- 1 Small Carrot (Peeled and chopped, approx. 105g)
- 1 Celery Stalk (Chopped, approx. 115g)
- 1 Small Stalk of Rosemary (1g)
- 2 Stalks of Thyme
- ½ cup (120ml) Chicken Stock
1 Tps. Cornstarch (2g) mixed with 1 ½ Tps. (7.5ml) Water
Method (Pre-heat oven to 250˚F or 120˚C)
- Bring your chicken out of the fridge ½ hour before you start cooking to get it up to temp. Pat it dry and seasons liberally with salt and pepper all over the surface and inside the cavity. While you’re in there you should check to make sure the giblets (and little purple specks of giblet scrap) have been removed.
- Fire up the oil in a large oven-safe pot (seriously, buy a Dutch oven!) over medium heat and once the oil shimmers carefully place the chicken breast-side-down into the pot. Don’t move the chicken around in there or you’ll tear the delicate skin on the breasts. You just want to get a little bit of colour on there, which takes about 5 minutes.
- Flip the chicken over onto it’s back (tongs inserted into the cavity help with that) and sprinkle the leeks, carrots and celery into the pot as well. Cook the chicken and veg another 8 minutes until browned. Drop in a couple sprigs of rosemary and thyme and say goodbye to that chicken for a while. Cover the pot securely and place it into the pre-heated oven for an hour and fifteen minutes.
- Check the chicken is cooked through by inserting a thermometer into the largest hunk of thigh. The juices should run clear and the internal temp will read 175˚F. The meat should be pull-apart tender, but resist the urge to go all primal. That chicken needs to rest on a nearby cutting board under foil for ten minutes. That’s long enough for all the moisture to settle inside the bird meat and for you to turn what little fat/juices are left in the pot into gravy.
- Depending on the fat content of your chicken there should be a couple of ounces of juice in the bottom of the pot. Pour in a bit of chicken stock to bulk it up and put the pot over medium heat for 4 minutes to get it to a simmer. Whisk in the water and cornstarch mixture a little at a time to thicken the liquid into a sauce consistency. Cook another 2 minutes, adjust seasonings and strain. Serve over carved pieces of chicken.
Music To Cook This To:
Jonsi – Go