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January 14, 2007
Every cook needs a clutch of totally trusty recipes, a bunch of go-to recipes you can turn to when you haven't got the time, inspiration or ingredients to tackle something new or when you've just got to be sure that the dish will be perfect. It also doesn't hurt if the recipe is so easy you can put it together quickly, maybe even with your eyes closed, and if it's flexible enough that if you haven't got a couple of the ingredients you can swap them for others or skip them entirely.
My favorite recipe in this exalted category is a type of Chicken-in-the-Pot. I hardly ever make it the same way, but every time I make it it's a winner. Basically, it's a chicken (which you can brown or not, depending on how much time you've got and how you're feeling about a little sputtering fat) surrounded by vegetables (your choice) and lots of garlic (a must), moistened with olive oil, wine and chicken broth (or just broth), put into a pot that's only just big enough to hold everything, sealed up tight (the original recipe calls for sealing the pot with a flour and water paste that hardens with heat) and baked for an hour or so.
As simple as it is, it's always delicious and fun - especially if you put the pot in the center of the table and encourage everyone to dip hunks of bread into the goop, which is the only thing I've ever called the cooking juice and which is what my friends now call it. It sounds particularly funny in French, but I couldn't think of a translation. "Jus de cuisson", which is correct, sounds way too formal for anything you're dunking into (a no-no in polite French company, but I consider my apartment American territory) and certainly too formal for anything, like this, which usually entails finger licking.
I made this last night with a chicken and vegetables I bought at the market on Avenue du President Woodrow Wilson (which I never know how to pronounce in French and which, when pronounced in "American" is not understood by Parisian taxi drivers). We were just four for dinner, but I ended up adding so many vegetables, I had to pull out the pot I usually use when I'm cooking for a crowd. That's the thing about this recipe, you can do just about whatever you want with it and it will always be great.
Here's a basic recipe. I know you'll play around with it - it's impossible not to - so I hope you'll let me know what you do.
Oh, the picture shows what the dish looked like before it went into the oven -- by the time I remembered that I wanted to take an "after" picture, the chicken and vegs were pretty picked over.
Makes 4 servings (but you can multiply the recipe easily)
Approximately 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 heads of garlic, broken into cloves, but not peeled
16 shallots, peeled and trimmed, or 4 onions, peeled, trimmed and quartered, or 4 leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise
8 carrots, peeled, trimmed and quartered
4 celery stalks, trimmed and quartered
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Grated zest of 1 lemon
16 prunes, optional (apricots or dried apples are also good in this dish)
1 chicken, whole or cut-up
1/2 small (2 lbs or less) cabbage, green or red, cut into 4 wedges (try Savoy cabbage)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine, or another 1/2 cup chicken broth
About 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, for the seal
About 3/4 cup hot water, for the seal
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Set a large skillet over high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss in the garlic cloves and all the vegetables, EXCEPT the cabbage - you might have to do this in two batches, you don't want to crowd the skillet - season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned on all sides. Spoon the vegetables into a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid - you'll need a pot that holds at least 5 quarts. Stir in the herbs, lemon zest and prunes, if you're using them.
Return the skillet to the heat and add another tablespoon or so of oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown the chicken on all sides. Put the chicken in the casserole, nestling it among the vegetables. Fit the cabbage wedges around the chicken.
Stir together the chicken broth, wine and 1/2 cup olive oil and pour the mixture over the chicken and vegetables.
Now you have a choice: you can cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil and the lid, or you can make a paste to seal the lid. To make the paste, stir the flour and water together, mixing until you have a soft, workable dough. Working on a floured surface, shape the dough into a long sausage, then press the sausage onto the rim of the casserole. Press the lid into the dough to seal the pot.
Slide the pot into the oven and bake for 70 minutes. If you need to keep it in the oven a little longer because you're not ready for it, don't worry - turn the heat down to 325 degrees F and you'll be good for another 30 minutes or so.
The easiest way to break the seal, is to wiggle the point of a screwdriver between the dough and the pot - being careful not to stand in the line of the escaping (and wildly aromatic) steam. If the chicken was whole, quarter it and return it to the pot, so that you can serve directly from the pot, or arrange the chicken and vegetables on a serving platter.
| April 27, 2007 10:24 AM
Wow, this recipe sounds absolutely delicious!! I am anxious to give it a try. It's quite different than any other chicken recipe I've tried. The addition of the prunes reminds me so of "chicken marbella" that old standby from "Silver Palate". I can't wait to dip into the "goop" lol Thank-you for sharing this recipe.
Voltaire Santos Miran
| July 15, 2007 8:31 AM
Dorie, thank you for this marvelous recipe, it was truly everything you said it would be. I hope you don't mind, I chronicled it on my blog and linked back to yours:
| November 1, 2007 4:19 PM
How would this be in a slow cooker? Of course, I would reduce the amount of liquid.
Think I'll try it.
| December 18, 2008 9:57 AM
This has become a family favorite! Kids, grown-ups, grown-ups that act like kids, everyone loves it. I serve it on a Friday night as a one-pot family dinner and everyone is thrilled, especially the grand presentation when we break the seal of dough at the table.
| March 23, 2009 8:50 AM
Very yummy, super easy.
I used a very big chicken from Union Square farmer's market (6lbs) and left it in 90 minutes. I'm better the recipe is very flexible and forgiving.
I used leftover root vegetables I had in the refrigerator - fennel, parsnips, carrots, 2 heads of garlic. Very good. Next time I'll try some potatoes to sop up some of the sauce, although I'm afraid they might break apart.
| December 23, 2010 9:05 PM
Absolutely fantastic. The chicken was so tender and juicy, the vegies were phemomenal! My DH (who proclaims he doesn't like cabbage) kept eating till I thought he'd pop!! Cooked recipe exactly as written & wouldn't change a thing!! I found your website through a link from simplyrecipes.com and boy am I am glad I did! Thanks!!
| January 7, 2011 7:59 PM
A wonderful recipe, but I hope someone might share why our seal isn't sealing. While delicious, I want to have to pry the seal open and stand back from the escape of steam! Sounds so dramatic.
| April 17, 2011 3:48 PM
Have you ever tried this with duck? I have a couple of wild ducks in my freezer, and think this sounds like a great thing to do with them.
| May 3, 2011 4:07 PM
Opps!!!!! This receipe looks so delicious. I'm gonna make it today after my office work.
| June 1, 2011 4:29 AM
This recipe looks great, have a much loved 'chicken brick' and will try this in my kitchen in Provence....
| June 5, 2011 12:34 AM
This was so wonderful. I can see myself making this for my family twenty years from now. The sauce is so much more luscious than I expected: it almost seems like it has egg yolk or cream. I added potatoes because I needed to use some up, and they worked very well.
| November 28, 2011 5:17 PM
We used this recipe for the turkey this Thanksgiving. Aside from tracking down a turkey that fit in the pot it was so easy...turkey and sides all in one. It made for a delicious and stress free meal.
replied to comment from Melissa
| November 28, 2011 6:41 PM
"Stress free meal" -- now there are words I love to see together :)
| February 17, 2012 3:03 PM
This message is for Dorie Greenspan. My daughter purchased your book Around My French Table. I love the book, but my complaint and the complaints of a lot of ladies is there are not enough photos. We really like to see what we are cooking. I have not made any recipes without the photos. One thing about the contessa books, they have photos for everything. Really helps. I hope your next book will have photos to match the recipes.
replied to comment from Linda Reynolds
| February 19, 2012 9:19 PM
Thanks so much for your comment. I am glad you are enjoying the recipes in AMFT and I truly appreciate the feedback on the photography. Continued joy and success in the kitchen, Dorie
| April 10, 2012 2:19 PM
hi dorie! i was wondering if you can do this with frozen chicken? i really want to make this tonight but all my legs are still frozen. :(
replied to comment from Amanda B.
| April 11, 2012 10:28 AM
Amanda B. - Defrost the chicken. It will be worth the wait.
| October 31, 2012 11:24 AM
Dori: I so enjoyed reading this recipe. It reminded me
of a time many years ago. We had been married a short time
when my husband lost his job. Money was very tight and the
cupboard was a bit bare. He was so depressed and feeling hopeless. I went into the kitchen to create a miracle. The freezer held only one whole chicken. I scrounged
around for root veggies and made the very same chicken in the pot recipe (without the seal), only I did it from my heart, not from a cookbook. That meal was so delicious. It restored us physically and emotionally. It restored hope.
Though we are no longer married, whenever we meet, he will say..."Do you remember that chicken dinner you made when we had no money? I have never had a better meal."
I think I'll make your recipe tonight for old time's sake. Thanks for the memory.
| November 3, 2012 12:04 PM
This is a superb recipe! It came together quickly and the flavors are so beautiful together. The lemon adds a fresh depth and the prunes are delightfully sweet. I popped my chicken thighs under the broiler for a couple minutes to crisp the skin before serving. I will be making this again ... and again ... and again. Thank you!
replied to comment from Amber DeGrace
| November 10, 2012 7:23 AM
Amber- I am so thrilled you enjoyed this. Thanks for writing to let me know about it.
replied to comment from Lynn H
| November 10, 2012 7:29 AM
Lynn H- I am sending hugs to you. This comment is one of my all-time favorites. Thanks so much for sharing your story with me. I, too, believe in the healing and restorative powers of food. Wishing you much joy and happiness in the kitchen!
| January 8, 2013 4:24 PM
Hi Dorie can I cook this in a tagine instead of the oven?
replied to comment from Erica
| January 10, 2013 6:47 PM
Erica- I think the chicken would be lovely cooked in a tagine. Good idea.
| February 12, 2013 12:23 PM
This was a life saver for me!! I needed something to serve that was yummy, easy and everyone would like. We are in an RV for our first winter in warm weather near our son and family. They loved it and the grandson who is very picky gobbled it up! Of course, I put the pot in the middle of the table and let him help himself! Thank you so much!
replied to comment from Cricket
| February 12, 2013 7:04 PM
Cricket- I am thrilled that your family enjoyed the recipe for Chicken-in-the-Pot. I am especially glad that your picky grandson gobbled it up! Wishing you continued joy and success in the kitchen!
| February 12, 2013 7:05 PM
Can I stuff the chicken with a bread stuffing too?
replied to comment from Lajuana Palmer
| February 15, 2013 7:30 PM
Lajuana- You can try stuffing the chicken with bread stuffing. Take the temperature to make sure the chicken reaches 165 degrees so it is safe to eat. Enjoy!
| March 20, 2013 5:09 PM
I know that this is an old post, but I just wanted to share with you how much this recipe means to me.
My husband and I had our first baby last April and after a difficult c-section, we had to come home without her while she spent a week in the NICU. Between recovering from the surgery and spending long anxious days at our daughter's bedside, I was past exhaustion. After a very long and difficult day, my mother (who is a huge fan of yours) put both of us in the car and drove us home and shooed me into the shower and then to bed. When I woke up a few hours later, she had cleaned the entire house and this beautiful chicken dinner was waiting on the table. It was like a miracle.
We ate it just as you describe, dipping in chunks of good bread and licking our fingers. It was a welcome respite, an island of calm in a very stormy time. Now I know that this is mostly a story about how awesome mothers are, but it's also a story about how food can comfort in such a powerful way.
Thank you for passing this recipe along. I'm looking forward to making it for my mother soon, when we celebrate Maggie's first birthday in a few weeks.
replied to comment from Valerie
| March 27, 2013 2:12 PM
Valerie- Thanks so much for sharing this story with me. You are so right- food has a power to comfort and heal.Wishing Maggie a very happy first birthday- it won't be long before she is sharing in the family meals with you all!
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