September 22, 2012

French Chicken

Do you have a Dutch oven? No? Well, it's time to get one. Go find a cheap one at Target, or online. (Amazon is great!) Cooks Illustrated has some great reviews, but heck, just grab one anywhere. It's time to join the club. (You might need your husband, older brother, teenage son or significant other to lug it around for you though)

 I love my Dutch oven. Not for it's looks (in fact, it's so chipped it's number one on my "replace" list) but for it's function. Dutch ovens are so useful, and so versatile, and so bombproof, and make FABULOUS food!! I'm more than happy to lend it out, for the making of delicious recipes. Did you know you can make crusty, fluffy, fantastic knead-free artisan bread in these babies? Oh yes. I haven't done it yet, but I will. I have tasted it, and it is gooood. Anything you use a pot for, you can use a Dutch Oven for. To clarify, I'm talking about ceramic coated kitchen dutch ovens, not the black ones you bury in your campfire while camping. Can you use those on a stove? I don't even know.

Back to the recipes. I have made stew, roasts, pasta, fried things, and chicken in my Dutch oven. Today, in honor of YOU who make me SO happy, and my new blog design *eee!* I am sharing my favorite chicken recipe of all time. I learned the method from Cooks Illustrated, the rest is all me :). When Stephen was leaving me all alone every other week for field work, this was my comfort food. It is also my #1 meal for taking to friends and neighbors, because it is so darn easy! And people get sick of lasagna. It is made, of course, in a Dutch oven. If you don't have one, and won't just listen to me and go GET one, and don't have a friend, neighbor, or vague acquaintance to borrow from, I guess you could do the browning in a pan and move the whole thing to a lidded baking dish. But make sure you seal it!!

French Chicken (I also use this recipe for my Chicken Pot Pie)

1 chicken (simple enough! Make sure all those yucky little inside bits are removed first. I make Stephen do it. Also, get the highest quality, least-filled-with-additives chicken you can find, just this once. It makes a difference, trust me)
2-3 stalks of celery
2 medium yellow onions or one VERY large onion
4-6 peeled garlic cloves
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
half a lemon
kosher salt (or a coarse salt)
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Season the breast side of the chicken generously with kosher salt and pepper. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in your Dutch oven on medium high heat. Swirl it around a bit to make sure the bottom is coated. When the oil is heated, but not smoking, place the chicken, breast side down, in the Dutch oven. It should sizzle as it hits the oil. Let brown for a few minutes on that side, and salt and pepper the bottom generously too (the side now facing UP). While browning, chop onion and celery into about 1/2-1 inch chunks. Big, coarse chunks. Carefully check the chicken. If the breast side has browned a bit, turn it over. (I find that sticking a wooden spoon into the cavity works best) Dump onions, celery, and garlic into the Dutch oven around the chicken. 
Put the lemon half inside the chicken. Let the chicken and veggies brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. If the bottom of the chicken is getting too brown (aka, burning) push some veggies under it. Once the veggies are softened a bit, and the bottom of the chicken is well-browned, add the sprigs of thyme, and place a sheet of foil over the top. Place the lid on top of that, and crumple the sides of the foil around the lid, sealing that gap as much as possible. Put the whole thing in the oven, and let cook for 80-110 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken. (90-100 minutes usually does it for me!) 

Remove from the oven and the Dutch oven and let sit, covered, for 20 minutes. 

While the chicken is resting, pour all the juices and solids left in the Dutch oven through a strainer into a bowl (or large glass measuring cup) Squish all the solids to squeeze every last bit of juice out, especially that lemon!

Best Gravy Ever

2 Tb butter
2 Tb flour
juices from chicken
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a small pot/saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour, and stir constantly until it darkens a bit and smells toasty. Gradually pour in juices, whisking furiously!! It will thicken up fast, and you don't want chunks. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer. Salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes I add a little bit more lemon too! (you can use this same method on any juices from any meat. If you don't have enough, add some chicken or beef broth)
Now, I know these pictures don't look like much. I should have used a darker plate, and made a colorful side-veggie. But I didn't, I just wanted to eat. So you're going to have to use your imaginations. 
Imagine the juiciest, most tender chicken you have ever had. Imagine it is lightly but thoroughly flavored with thyme, lemon, and other savories. This is the chicken that made me love dark meat. 
Now the gravy. People, you could put this gravy on a cardboard box and it would be delish. I adore gravy, and this is quite simply, The Best. It's smooth and savory, deeply flavored with garlic and thyme, and a tang of lemon... It is celestial. 
Together, they are simple chicken perfection. Are you drooling yet?? If not, read it again, because you should be! This is my favorite. Use it well. 


  1. Stopping by from Marie's. You may have convinced me to get a Dutch oven.

  2. Sitting here drooling April. I don't have a dutch oven but I have a roaster with a lid so that might work. On the sugar front, you can sub soft light brown sugar for muscovado sugar and granulated sugar for caster sugar. They both work fine. Now I may be mistaken but I think turbinado sugar is the same as demerara sugar! Hope this helps! xxoo

  3. April, merci beaucoup! Cheers


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