Tuesday, November 03, 2009


RIP, Gourmet magazine. I never subscribed (and thus, I suppose, could be considered complicit in your downfall), but you had consistently great food writing, and a quick search of my blog reveals that the few recipes of yours I’ve tried are among my favorites. Now I’m adding this one to the list.

I originally spotted this, in a modified version, at Everybody Likes Sandwiches, where it was described as “the best single meal I've ever ever ever cooked in my life.” How could I not give that a try, immediately? The original version on Epicurious looked more to my taste, so I added it to my menu for Sunday night. A cozy, hearty, French peasant-style braise of chicken and root vegetables in wine and cream seemed a perfect way to welcome November and the return of 5:00 sunsets. Of course, it ended up being over 90 degrees in Pasadena, but this was still a delicious dinner—luckily, it was originally intended for the spring, so it’s not too rich and heavy. This is the kind of recipe that makes me feel really impressed with myself, even if all I did was follow directions. It’s so simple (I was a little afraid it would be bland, since there are barely even any herbs in it), but the ingredients are transformed into something sophisticated and surprising, probably because they're bathed in a chickeny, tangy, creamy sauce that will have you licking the plate (next time, I might make a few more potatoes or maybe serve some bread, the better to soak up more sauce).

The recipe may be a little too time-consuming for a weeknight, but I didn’t feel like I was stuck slaving in the kitchen, and we ate at a timely hour. I followed the directions exactly and everything went smoothly. My Riesling wasn’t Alsatian (Trader Joe’s only had two Rieslings, a $2.99 one from California and a $6.99 one from Washington, so I went with the Washington), and I’m not even sure how dry it was (I took a sip and it was tart and fruity), but I don’t think it mattered; I really loved the taste of the finished sauce. Gourmet says you can use crème fraiche or heavy cream, but for me there’s no choice—crème fraiche has so much more character and works so well in sauces, since it never separates (the reheated leftovers were still perfectly creamy the next day), I strongly recommend it if you can get it (and if you can’t find it at the store, make your own!). I had a bit of a revelation when reading about the French-style cut chicken; I always complain that the bone-in chicken breasts that come in the packages of whole cut-up chicken at Trader Joe’s are impossibly massive (especially since white meat is not my favorite), but it had never occurred to me that I could simply cut them in half crosswise into more manageable portions. This time I gave it a try, and wouldn’t you know it, two hacks with a cleaver through the ribs and I had four neat, modest pieces! I’ll definitely be doing that for other bone-in chicken recipes from now on.

1 whole chicken (about 3½ pounds), backbone discarded and chicken cut French style into 8 pieces (2 breast halves with wings attached, halved crosswise for a total of 4 breast pieces; 2 drumsticks; and 2 thighs), or 3 pounds pre-cut chicken parts (bone-in, with skin).
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped (2 cups)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
4 thin medium carrots, halved diagonally
1 cup dry white wine (preferably Alsatian Riesling)
1½ pounds small (2-inch) red potatoes (I could only find larger ones, so I halved them)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup crème fraîche
Fresh lemon juice to taste (I used the juice of 1 lemon)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and a rounded ¾ teaspoon pepper. Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a wide 3½-to-5-quart heavy ovenproof pot (I used my Dutch oven) over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning once, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer to a plate.

3. Pour off fat from pot, then cook leeks, shallot, and ¼ teaspoon salt in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until leeks are pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken, skin sides up, with any juices from plate, carrots, and wine and boil until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover pot and braise chicken in oven until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. While chicken braises, peel potatoes, then generously cover with cold water in a 2-to-3-quart saucepan and add 1½ teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander, then return to saucepan. Add parsley and shake to coat.

5. Remove chicken mixture from oven, stir in crème fraîche, and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, then add potatoes.

Serves: 4
Time: 2 hours
Leftover potential: Good.


She Reads She Writes said...

Hey J. I'm visiting Bookcook for the first time in quite awhile, and I am SO impressed with everything: the meals you've been making, the photos of the finished products, and the blog itself. You're so talented! The bonus (for me) is that you just happen to have quite a few recipes here that are gluten-free, so I'm really eager to try some of them.

J said...

Well, gosh, thanks! I'm surprised (given my addiction to pasta and bread) but so pleased that I happen to have some gluten-free recipes for you! If you give any of them a try, let me know how it goes...