Aren’t you glad I didn’t call this poulet en cocotte, even though I totally could have? I don’t really believe in karma, but this meal definitely seemed like payback for not cooking at all last week. After what a pain this supposedly easy one pot dish was, I figured I didn’t need the karmic backlash that would come from pretentiously using the French name.
I can’t completely blame the frustration of making this chicken on the French, though. It was really all Publix’s fault (and maybe partially my own bad timing). I bought this whole chicken at around 6:30 last night, and then realized it was completely frozen solid when I got home from the grocery store. This caught me off guard since I was planning to eat this hour and a half meal in about an hour and a half. A trick for getting meat thawed quickly is to put it into a ziploc bag, then place it in a bowl of hot water. That won’t work for a 5 pound chicken, so I just soaked the whole thing in water unprotected, which doesn’t exactly help you get crispy skin at the other end of this recipe.
The whole point of chicken in a pot, according to America’s Test Kitchen (the slightly more well-known of the two ‘Test Kitchens’), is to get juicy meat and crispy skin. Although my chicken was juicy and delicious, I think the combination of an undersized pot, too many vegetables, and soaking my frozen chicken in hot water for almost an hour resulted in skin I didn’t feel bad throwing in my stock pot. At the end of the day, though, this ended up being a good meal and I’ll definitely try to roast a (thawed) chicken like this again, sans vegetables. The real victory is the jus that’s left at the bottom of the pot when you’re finished roasting. I strained and reduced the leftover liquid until it turned into thick, ultra-rich gravy. That sauce made all the frustration worth it.
1 4-5 pound chicken
2 celery ribs
1/2 large onion
4-6 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large, heavy pot heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until just smoking. While oil is heating, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and chop vegetables into 1/2 inch chunks.
- When oil is hot and chicken is dressed, place chicken breast-side down in the pot. Brown well (better than I did), for 4-5 minutes. Use a wooden spoon or similar tool to reach into the chicken’s cavity, lift it, and flip it over. Let the back of the chicken brown for another 4-5 minutes.
- Scatter vegetables around the chicken in the pot, then close the pot tightly. If your top doesn’t have a good seal, cover the mouth of the pot with tinfoil before putting the lid on. Place whole pot in the hot oven for 60-90 minutes. If your chicken is closer to 4 pounds, cook it for about an hour, and let it cook longer if it weighs more. Test that the juices run clear or that the thigh has a temperature of 160 degrees if you’re nervous your chicken isn’t done.
- Take your chicken out of the pot and let it rest on a cutting board for 20 minutes or so before carving. While it’s resting, strain the vegetables from the juices remaining in the pot, saving the jus. Add the jus back to the pot and put it over medium heat on the stove. Reduce to your desired amount of sauce, stirring very often. Keep in mind that the sauce will thicken considerably when you take it off the heat, and that the more you reduce it, the more intense the flavor will be. Pour the sauce over the pieces of your chicken and vegetables to serve.
Oh, and after you’re done, don’t forget to make chicken stock with all your leftover chicken and vegetable refuse! I simmered my chicken carcass and vegetable pieces for about an hour and half after dinner, and ended up getting three big containers of stock to freeze for later.