Poule au pot
This is a recipe for the classic French dish poule au pot (pronounced pool-oh-POH), in which a chicken or hen is boiled with vegetables and aromatic seasonings to produce a two-part meal: first the broth, and then the chicken and veggies.
Traditionally, a stewing hen is used. This increases the cooking time and yields a richer, more flavorful broth. However, as hens can be harder to come by these days than in years past, a large free-range chicken may be used instead.
If at all possible, choose carrots that still have their fronds attached. When you remove the fronds, leave an inch or so of the green attached to the carrots. This makes for prettier presentation. As for the cabbage, the curly leaf variety works best.
Poule au pot is a substantial dish that is perfect for cool autumn evenings. Start with the broth and, if you’d like another starter, a chicken liver pâté with cassis would marry well. Serve the chicken and vegetable course with a fruity red wine, for example a Beaujolais. Follow the main course with a salad, and then cheese, fruit, a dessert or all three.
1 whole 4-1/2 pound (2 kilo) free-range chicken or stewing hen
1 large carrot
2 tbsp. sea salt or table salt
10 black pepper corns
1 tsp. dried tarragon or 2 stems fresh tarragon
6 medium carrots
12 small boiling potatoes
Rinse the chicken and reach inside to pull out any extraneous fat.
Place the chicken in a large stewing pot. Cover with cold water. Set over high heat.
While the chicken is coming to a boil, peel the onion, stud it with the two cloves and add to the pot. Peel the large carrot, slice in half lengthwise and add to the pot. Add the salt, peppercorns and tarragon.
When the pot comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low. Skim off the foam that rises to the top. Allow to simmer until the meat is tender — about one hour for a chicken, and two and a half hours for a hen. Keep an eye on the pot and add more water to cover the chicken from time to time.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the other vegetables. Peel the carrots and turnips. Wash the leeks and trim them, slicing off the bottoms and cutting vertically through the green part. Cut the half-cabbage in half, remove the core and separate the leaves. Wash the potatoes, and peel them if you prefer (I generally leave the skins on).
When the chicken is tender, remove it from the pot and set aside. Strain the broth through a colander into a large clean pot. Discard the contents of the colander.
Leaving the chicken aside, place the broth over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, turnips and leeks. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 20 minutes. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.
Separately, blanch the cabbage leaves in a pot of salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Boil the potatoes in another pot until tender, about 20 minutes.
You are now ready to assemble the dish. Ladle some broth into a clean pot for the first course — count about one cup per person. Heat up when ready to serve.
Return the chicken to the broth pot. Add the cooked cabbage leaves and potatoes. Heat through gently while you are having the first course.
For the second course, place the chicken on a large platter — either whole for carving at the table, or cut into pieces — and surround it with veggies. Serve with a small dish of sea salt or kosher salt alongside. Serves 6.
Tip: You can remove all fat from the broth by placing the pot with the strained soup in the fridge for about an hour before proceeding with the recipe. The fat will rise to the top and harden. Swipe through the pot with a strainer to remove it, then proceed.