Whatcha got cookin’?
I’m truly, very sorry for that Hank Williams reference. I was subjected to a lot of country music as a child. It’s a miracle that I’m not making Frito Pies, deep-frying Oreos and living in Texas. Growing up in the early eighties, I had the pleasure of watching Dukes of Hazzard (the real one – not J-Simp), Hee Haw and the Mandrell Sisters. Occasionally, I’d hear that song and think, “Someday I’m going to have a nice husband who comes home at night and asks me that.” Life was simple at five years of age. I wanted to work as cashier at Carl’s Drugs or be Princess Diana when I grew up. That’s totally logical thinking.
Today, my life plays out more like Barbara Mandrell’s “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed” or The Judds’ “Why Not Me?” or better yet, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” Can you dig it? Great, now let’s change the subject.
Do you own a fancy pot? Yep, up there – that’s a fancy pot behind those fancy tarts and next to that fancy kettle. It’s the kind of coveted kitchen item generally reserved for wedding registries. I’m here to tell you a little secret. You don’t need to get married to own a fancy pot, a fancy stand mixer, or fancy knife set in a fancy wood block. Do you love to cook? Well, fancy that…me too! Several years ago I made a decision to celebrate my “Independent Woman” self (a la Destiny’s Child) and purchased some high-quality kitchen stuff. Yes, you will pay more, but it will last much longer and you won’t complain once you have it. Seriously. No regrets. Low on cash? I get it. No problem. Take off those Jimmy Choos and get comfy. Reach into that Coach, Dooney & Bourke or Louis Vuitton bag of yours, grab that smart phone with the expensive data plan, and put those acrylic nails to work! Prioritize! I want you to start scouring “the internets” or your local Tuesday Morning/ Marshall’s for a deal on Le Creuset like I did. It might take some time but you’ll find one on sale. Practice your best Julia Child voice (yes, I watched her as well) because we are making Chicken in a Fancy Pot, just like French people. The chicken is seared first, then cooked at a low temperature for a couple of hours which makes it very juicy and delicious. Eventually we’re going make chicken stock together in your other, larger fancy pot. Don’t roll your eyes. You can do this!
Now do you need Le Creuset for this recipe? Absolutely not. You can use any cast iron (heavy) enameled dutch oven and you’ll be fine. However the quality of Le Creuset is unparalleled – it cooks like a dream, so easy to clean and the colors are gorgeous. If you live in a bubble and are unfamiliar, you can read more about the story of Le Creuset here: http://cookware.lecreuset.com/cookware/lecreusetstory_10151_-1_20002. I have two round fancy pots (French ovens): a Cassis-colored 4.5 qt and a Citron-colored 6.75 qt. I find that these two sizes suit me just fine (for now) and they look great with my other apple green kitchen items. We’ll be using the 4.5 size for this recipe.
I adjusted my recipe from several others I found. I “test-kitchened” one that called for aromatic hay that could be substituted with chamomile tea. Don’t do that unless you want your chicken to taste like an herbal tincture. Do something close to below, because this worked the best for me:
Chicken in a Fancy Pot (Cast-Iron Dutch or French Oven)
1 whole chicken 3.5 – 4.5 lbs (remove the giblets & neck)
2 tsp kosher salt (or less if you are watching your sodium)
1 tsp pepper (more or less to taste)
1-2 tbsp Wegmans Basting Oil (Wegmans is a chain market here in the Northeast/East Coast, you can substitute with regular olive oil and add more herbs if this is not available to you)
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 small onion (about 1/2 cup), chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic (add more if you don’t have the Basting Oil), peeled & trimmed
2 bay leaves
Fresh herbs of your choice (rosemary, thyme, Italian parsley)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice, (juice from one lemon, slice the remaining lemon halves into wedges)
1/2 cup dry white wine (you can use that leftover Sauv Blanc from the St. Germain Cocktail recipe)
Arrange oven racks to accommodate your fancy pot (lower the racks) and preheat to 250 degrees F. Remove the giblets, neck, rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Really dry it well – this helps when you sear it. Rub the chicken with salt, pepper, basting oil & herbes de provence. Make sure to rub the seasonings/oil up under the skin – it enhances the flavor. Stuff the cavity with the lemon wedges, a couple garlic cloves and your fresh herb choices. Don’t be shy as you stuff the cavity. Laugh about the moron you dated in college. Imagine what his life is like now. Now laugh some more. Warm the remaining oil in your fancy pot (Dutch/French oven) on the stovetop over medium heat until the oil smokes. Place the chicken, breast side down in your fancy pot along with your bay leaves, vegetables (onion, remaining garlic cloves, celery & carrot) and any remaining herbs. You are browning the bird & it will take anywhere from 7-10 minutes depending on the size of your bird. Now flip the bird. No, really, stick kitchen tongs or a wooden spoon in the cavity to help turn the chicken over and continue to brown another 7-10 minutes. At this point I add my wine and lemon juice. Of course I’ve already had a glass while the chicken browns but use your own judgement. Turn off the burner & remove the pot from heat. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the chicken and the fancy pot lid over the foil. Put your fancy pot in the oven. You will be cooking the chicken for about 1.5 hrs- 2 hrs (the breast temperature should read 160 degrees F). At this point you can shower and give your hair a decent blow-out, drink more wine, read Post Secret (I usually do this type of cooking on a Sunday), Facebook-stalk people, stand on your head…whatever floats your boat.