This is a toque-worthy day in our French Fridays with Dorie world. With this week’s mouthwatering recipe, our group will have literally cooked-the-book. The cookbook is “Around My French Table, more than 300 recipes from my home to yours” by the incomparable Dorie Greenspan. What began in October 2010 with Gougères, those exquisite pâte à choux pastry puffs flavored with Gruyère cheese, is ending with Chicken in a Pot, the Garlic and Lemon version. So happens, it’s featured on AMFT’s cover.
To observe this remarkable milestone I planned an intimate dinner to acknowledge another remarkable milestone, a very special birthday. However, there were some caveats:
1. Since Chicken in a Pot is not a particularly simple recipe, I would need sous chef assistance.
2. Once fully cooked, the seal on the Chicken in a Pot needs to be broken with a screwdriver!
3. Like many occasions at my table, this would be a Lights on Bright blog post. Wear lipstick.
4. Having never made this recipe before, it might be a disaster. My back-up choice, frozen pizza.
I called my friend, Charlotte McLain, and asked if she and the birthday boy, her husband, Michael, were free for dinner. I explained we would be cooking the cover recipe of my AMFT cookbook. Besides being a professional musician, Charlotte is an extraordinary chef. She happily accepted my invite. We made a plan.
Eventually I explained the screwdriver thing to her, suggesting that I hoped the pot wouldn’t blow when the seal was broken. She chuckled, kinda. We decided, at tool time, Michael would be in charge. Her husband, a Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, is a fun guy and a very good sport.
Our unforgettable evening, one for the memory book, can best be told through photos. Michael insisted on choosing a superb wine and brought his last bottle of 2005 Willenborg Pinot Noir. The birthday dessert was Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, my favorite Dorie/AMFT sweet treat. The recipe for the chicken is below. I’ve linked to the apple cake recipe.
CHICKEN IN A POT, THE GARLIC AND LEMON VERSION by Dorie Greenspan,
Serves 6 – 8
½ preserved lemon, rinsed well
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and each cut into 8 same-sized pieces (you can use white potatoes, if you prefer)
16 small white onions, yellow onions, or shallots
8 carrots, trimmed, peeled, and quartered
4 celery stalks, trimmed, peeled, and quartered
4 garlic heads, cloves separated but not peeled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 thyme sprigs
3 parsley sprigs
2 rosemary sprigs
1 chicken, about 4 pounds, preferably organic, whole or cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup dry white wine
For the Dough:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup hot water
(To save myself some time, I used fresh store-bought pizza dough from Whole Foods to seal the pot.)
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
2. Using a paring knife, slice the peel from the preserved lemon and cut it into small squares. Discard the pulp.
3. Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, drop in the peel, and cook for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the vegetables and garlic, season with salt and pepper and sauté until vegetables are brown on all sides. (If necessary, do this in 2 batches.) Spoon vegetables into a 4½- to 5-quart Dutch oven or other pot with a lid and stir in the herbs and the preserved lemon.
5. Return the skillet to the heat and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the chicken on all sides, seasoning it with salt and pepper as it cooks.
6. Tuck chicken into the casserole, surrounding it with the vegetables.
7. Mix together the broth, wine, and the remaining olive oil and pour over the chicken and vegetables.
8. For the Dough, put 1½ cups flour in a medium bowl and add enough hot water to make a malleable dough. Dust a work surface with a little flour, turn out the dough, and, working with your hands, roll the dough into a sausage.
Place the dough on the rim of the pot — if it breaks, just piece it back together — and press the lid onto the dough to seal the pot.
10. Slide the pot into the oven and bake for 55 minutes.
11. Now you have a choice — you can break the seal in the kitchen or do it at the table, where it’s bound to make a mess, but where everyone will have the pleasure of sharing that first fragrant whiff as you lift the lid with a flourish. Whether at the table or in the kitchen, the best tool to break the seal is the least attractive: a screwdriver. Sterilize the screwdriver. Use the point of the screwdriver as a lever to separate the lid from the dough.
12. Depending on whether your chicken was whole or cut up, you might have to do some in-the-kitchen carving, but in the end, you want to make sure that the vegetables and the delicious broth are on the table with the chicken.
If the chicken is cut up, you can just serve it and the vegetables from the pot. If the chicken is whole, you can quarter it and return the pieces to the pot or arrange the chicken and vegetables on a serving platter. Either way, you don’t need to serve anything else but some country bread, which is good for spreading with the sweet garlic popped from the skins and dunking into the cooking broth. A pot at the table is because it makes for easy dipping.
FRENCH FRIDAYS with DORIE is a wonderful virtual group of food bloggers who have cooked their way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table Cookbook. To see the other Dorista’s efforts this week, go to our FFWD link.