Poulette au cidre

Normandy chicken in cider

This classic dish from Normandy is made by lightly browning chicken in butter, adding mushrooms, shallot/onion and bacon, and stewing the dish in hard cider. Cream is added at the end. The dish may be made in advance and reheated just before serving.

For best results, have your butcher cut the chicken into 8-10 pieces. You can cut off the wing tips at home and use them and any other extraneous pieces (the back, the neck) to make chicken broth. You will also need one bottle (wine-bottle size) of dry hard cider.

This recipe takes time, but it yields an intensely flavorful, apple-inflected dish that is well worth the effort. For a lighter version, simply use less cream. The chicken may be served with apple slices alongside — sauté them in butter until golden brown.

The quantities below will serve 4 people.

4 tbsp. (50 g) unsalted butter
1 free-range or organic chicken, cut into pieces

1o mushrooms, rinsed
1 shallot or small onion
1-2 thick strips bacon (2 ounces/50 g)
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of fresh or dried thyme
1 bottle (3 cups/75 cl) hard cider (brut)

1 cup (240 cl) crème fraîche or heavy cream

Melt the butter in a large skillet. When it sizzles add the chicken pieces, skin-side down. Sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat — you want the chicken to cook without browning too deeply. Turn the pieces over and sauté for 5 minutes more. Transfer the chicken pieces to a large stew pot, leaving the drippings in the skillet.

While the chicken is cooking, slice the mushrooms, peel and mince the shallot or onion, and dice the bacon. Add to the skillet (after removing the chicken). Sauté over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms and shallot/onion have softened. Transfer to the stew pot, along with the drippings.

Place the stew pot over medium heat. Add the salt, pepper and thyme. Add the cider. Bring to a simmer. Cover partially, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Place a colander over a large bowl. Pour the contents of your stew pot into the colander, allowing the sauce to drain into the bowl. Put the colander aside for the moment.

Transfer the sauce to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Allow the sauce to reduce by about three-quarters, so that you have about a cup (25 cl) remaining. This will intensify the flavors. Then turn off the heat under the sauce. Add the cream, stirring or whisking to blend.

Now add the contents of the colander — chicken, mushrooms, etc. — to the sauce pot. Stir to blend. Reheat gently.

Serves 4.

Serve the chicken with seasonal veggies, mashed potatoes, sweet potato purée, puréed celeriac, rice and/or sautéd apple slices.

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