French Chicken refers to the cooking method, not some crazy requirement to obtain a chicken from France. Although I’m rather amused by the idea of a yard full of free range chickens squawking Le Cluck, Le Cluck. And there was that episode of Iron Chef America that did use Blue Footed Chickens which are normally only found in France, if I remember correctly. So maybe the idea of finding beret wearing, parlez vous francaising chickens in your grocery store isn’t that far fetched after all.
Regardless of the nationality of your poultry, this recipe comes from the folks at Cook’s Illustrated who say “Taking cues from a French technique for cooking chicken in a covered pot, we forgo crispy skin for succulent meat and unforgettable flavor.“
As much as I do love crisp roasted chicken skin, this sounds good to me.
The science of this recipe focuses on the cooking method. According to CI “French Chicken in a Pot shares some similarities with braised chicken – both are cooked in covered pots in low temperature ovens to yield tender, flavorful meat. Unlike braising however, where lots of liquid is added to the pot, our chicken is placed in a dry pot and left to cook in nothing more than the essence of its own juice. In a dry pot with no added liquid, juices that come out of the chicken go right back into it, undiluted by other flavors. The wet environment of the braise creates an ongoing exchange between the flavors of the chicken as well as other ingredients, such as wine, broth, and vegetables.”
And it’s completely true. I’ve made this twice now and each time I’ve been blown away by the moistness of the meat and the flavor of the juices. I do still miss the crispy skin but until someone figures a way to engineer it, I’ll just have to let the Colonel handle that detail for me.
French Chicken In A Pot
BAH Note: If you don’t have a fat separator, do what I do. Pour the juice into a two cup liquid measuring cup. Allow it to settle for about 5 minutes. Then carefully skim off as much grease as possible from the top. If you’re cooking this as a make ahead meal, just cover the measuring cup with foil or plastic and put it in the refrigerator. As it cools, the fat will form a solid layer which can easily be removed before you reheat the jus.
- 1 whole roasting chicken (4 1/2 to 5 pounds), giblets removed and discarded
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 small celery stalk, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Place an oven rack in the lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees.
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken (breast side down) and place onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary (if using) around chicken. Cook chicken for about 5 minutes or until the breast is lightly browned. Carefully flip the chicken breast side up and cook 6 to 8 minutes until the chicken and vegetables have browned.
Remove the pot from heat, cover with a large sheet of aluminum foil, and cover tightly with lid. Transfer to oven and cook approximately 80 to 110 minutes or until instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the breast and 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh.
Transfer the chicken to cutting board, tent with foil, and rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from the pot through a fine mesh strainer into a fat separator. Be sure to press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and you should have somewhere around 3/4 cup juices. Let the liquid settle for 5 minutes, then pour into a saucepan set over low heat. Add any accumulated chicken juices from cutting board to pan, stir in lemon juice, and taste for seasoning.
Carve chicken and serve with jus.