Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday Meal - La Poule au Pot

I treasure family dinners; Especially Sunday ones. There's just something about putting an effort into cooking something special for the ones you love. Everyone gets to roll up their sleeve and help. Nice dinnerware and tablecloth are set. We serve an aperitif. On met les petits plats dans les grands - we make an effort

I fondly remember my dimanche lunches when I was younger. My Mom or my grandma Meme would cook a roast of lamb, or a roti (a roast) with greens beans or cardoons from the garden. More often than not, Meme would bake a dessert like a tarte aux pommes (apple tarte) or an ile flottante.

One of those Sunday classics in France is a dish called la poule au pot. It's a very popular French dish that is supposedly attributed to Henry IV who, concerned with the well-being of his subjects, wanted them to be able to mettre la poule au pot (put the chicken in the pot). The recipe cannot be easier. The whole chicken is cooked in a pot of water along with some vegetables. We traditionally serve a poule au pot along with some mustard and cornichons (French gherkins). Meme would always accompany it with rice that was cooked in the chicken broth. My personal touch? I grate some Gruyere cheese on the hot rice. It melts quickly and makes the rice very gooey and tangy. Unbelievable.

Poule Au Pot

1 whole chicken
1 bay leaf
20 peppercorns
1 onion stuck with 3 cloves
1 tsp salt
4 carrots, peeled
4 turnips, peeled
1/2 tsp of dried thyme
Dijon mustard
Gruyere cheese (optional)
Fleur de Sel

Put the chicken, the onion, the peppercorns and the bay leaf in a large heavy pot and cover with cold water. Add the salt. Bring to a boil (about 20 minutes) and scoop off the scum at the surface of the water. Simmer for 1 hour and add the vegetables and the thyme. Simmer for another 50 minutes.

Remove the chicken and vegetables and lay on a plate. Cover the chicken with foil. Add 1/2 cup of rice to the water/stock and cook for 20 minutes.

Sieve the rice through a colander into a big bowl, in order to keep the broth. Adjust seasoning to the broth if necessary.

Carve the chicken and serve it along with vegetables and rice. You may serve it along with some broth, Dijon mustard, cornichons and Fleur de Sel. I absolutely love to grate some Gruyere cheese on top of my rice. It's just wonderful.

Make sure to keep the stock as it can be re-used for soups and many recipes. Place in the fridge and the day after, remove and discard the top layer of fat. You may keep homemade chicken stock for 3 months in the freezer.

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