Poule au pot

Most people who write about Poule au Pot talk about King Henri IV and his wish that all his subjects could eat such a thing every Sunday, so I won’t mention it again. However, I will point out two things about this dish. Firstly, it is really just a poached chicken and, secondly, the leftover meat is useful for making other dishes. Also, you get a nice amount of good quality chicken stock, which is always a good thing and which can be frozen for future use.

I think that the most important thing to remember is that the vegetables you use to cook the chicken are not the ones you will eat with the bird when it is done. All their flavour will have gone into the poaching stock.

Anyway, you will need a nice chicken, free range or organic for flavour and you need to stuff it with something herbed and meaty. A sausagemeat stuffing is good but for this version I used minced veal, together with some dried breadcrumbs, a lot of chopped parsley, a finely-chopped shallot, some chopped raw ham, salt and pepper and a flat teaspoonful of Epices Rabelais, which I have mentioned before, all mixed and bound together with an egg.

The stuffed and trussed chicken was put in a pot with half a bottle of white wine, a couple of carrots, the green parts of two leeks, two sticks of celery and a bouquet garni made of two bay leaves, a large sprig of thyme, some parsley stalks, a quartered onion with its skin on and some black peppercorns. The bouquet was tied up in a bag of butter muslin to make its removal easy. The pot was then topped up with water until the chicken was covered and a teaspoon of sea salt added.

This was brought to the boil, with the scum that gathered on the surface skimmed off and then covered and reduced to a simmer for around an hour. At this point, I removed the bouquet and the cooking vegetables and added in some carrot batons, halved waxy potatoes and some leeks, white parts only, cut into sections.

This was then cooked for a further 20 minutes, until the vegetables were done.

The chicken was removed from the pot and left on one side while I removed the vegetables and drained them in a colander.

The skin is not worth eating, so this went to the dogs.

I served the poached breasts with the vegetables, a slice of the stuffing and some Hollandaise sauce, thinned down with a little of the poaching liquor.

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