On a chilly day a couple of days ago I cuddled up with Dorie's book and a blanket on my couch, and I started reading her chicken recipe on page 206. She started out by reminiscing about the first time she made chicken in a pot with 40 cloves of garlic. She had gotten the recipe from "Simple French Food" by Richard Olney. "Wait a minute," I thought. "I have that book." I jumped up and ran to my cookbook shelf and sure enough, I did have that book. One of the great things about people finding out I like to cook is that I end up inheriting people's cookbooks and magazines. I love it.
Back to my story. After reading Dorie Greenspan's chicken in a pot recipe and Richard Olney's chicken in a pot recipe I realized that Richard's version was more appealing to me for the first time making a bird like this, and I had 40 cloves of garlic on hand thanks to a friend who grows garlic in his backyard. When all was said and done it really ended up being a combination of both of their recipes. Dorie's version kept the chicken whole, called for fresh herbs, preserved lemon, and a very hot oven, while Richard's version called for cut up chicken, dried herbs, and a lower temp oven. I didn't feel like cutting up the chicken, I had fresh herbs and garlic but not preserved lemon, and I felt better about a lower temperature oven for my first rodeo.
The result. Wow. I think this was the best chicken I have ever made in my life! I could not stop making "mmm" sounds as I was eating. I sounded like Bill Murray in the movie "What about Bob?" in that funny dinner scene. One thing that didn't work for me was the dough crust around the pot. It turned out like a really hard bread stick. It didn't stop me spreading that creamy soft garlic paste and gnawing on it though. I think the reason that it didn't turn out was that my pot was larger than what Dorie used. I think I would need a smaller pot or to double the dough recipe next time. Honestly, I might not even bother with the dough rim next time. I love the idea of it, but serving the chicken with a fresh warm baguette will be easier. In the spirit of full disclosure my husband liked this chicken about as much as he likes my "French Chicken in a Crock Pot" which is to say he likes it but it's not his preference. When I pressed him to pick his favorite chicken dish (bone in) that I make he said he prefers my "Salt and Pepper Roasted Chicken" and "Rotisserie Chicken Breasts."
French Chicken in a Pot with Fresh Herbs and 40 Cloves of Garlic
1 whole chicken
8 oz bag of baby onions
40 cloves of garlic (from about 6 cloves), separated but not peeled
2 celery stalks in 1 inch pieces
several sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
3/4 cups of water
1. Start some basic prep work by placing the chicken out on a plate, dry it off with a paper towel and set aside so it is not "refrigerator" cold when you place it in the pot to brown. Next skin the onions by cutting off the root tips of the onions. Put the onions in a small pot of cold water and salt and bring to a boil.
4. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pot (not the pot you are going to cook the chicken in because you don't want the pot to be hot when you put the dough around the rim) and add the garlic cloves to caramelize them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
6. Add a little more oil if necessary and then add the celery and onions to get them browned up a bit too.
9. Place breast side down in the hot oil. Sear the bird for a couple minutes on the breast side, back side, and both sides until lightly golden brown. Place the chicken on top of the other vegetables in the cooking pot.
10. Mix up the dough and roll it out in a long "snake."Dribble the dough with a little olive oil and place along the rim.
11. Dress up the bird with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs. I had plenty of fresh herbs to I placed some inside the bird too.
13. Let the chicken cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Open the lid and gently remove the chicken to a cutting board. The chicken was so tender and juicy the leg almost fell off.
14. Carve up the chicken and serve with some roasted vegetables and a piece of (soft) bread.