Chicken Chapter: Poulet au Chasseur and Fricassée de Volaille à l’Ancienne avec Legumes Primeurs
With the fish done we’ve now moved onto chicken and it’s not getting any easier.
Having de-boned multiple ducks during service and regional menu I thought I might be having a bit of an easier time with the chicken. You know, being smaller and all. But trying to de-gut a smaller bird with just two fingers is no easy task. Before I knew it, I was halfway up to my elbow trying to pull out its innards and was on the receiving end of disapproving glares from Chef. Nearly cleaving off my left hand’s index finger tip wasn’t very awesome either.
We learnt different bridage methods: rotir, pocher, americaine. I was having fun stitching up the chickens with a trussing needle until I accidentally poked Chef’s finger with it. He’s an unusually resilient man; handling trays straight out of a 200C oven with his bare hands, testing the temperature of boiling sauces with his finger tips. So seeing him turn away and go completely quiet was rather worrisome.
Some observations on chickens:
1. They are fattier than what I thought. Everyone harps on about how healthy white chicken meat is – fatless, white meat, what not. The only thing white about this is this lie. The skin is fat. When trying to dig out its guts my hands got so greasy, as all the fat inside the chicken started warming up and getting all over my palms, which made getting a grip on the innards that much harder, making me dig around with warm hands for much longer, melting more fat, getting greasier. You get the cycle. Chickens are fat. If trying to watch what you eat, ditch the skin. And ditch french food.
2. Chickens have very funny skin. It’s slithery, slippery, and sometimes deceptively scanty. One must try to debone the bird with ample skin covering the flesh so that when cooking the meat doesn’t dry out. This is harder than it sounds. The Chef’s chicken bits turned out nicely clothed in skin, whereas one of my thighs turned out naked while the other had loose skin dangling off it – not a good look.
3. Chickens are delicate. This goes for most meats but overcooked chicken gets dry, fibrousy, chewy, and disgusting, undercooked chicken is scary and worthless, and there’s a fine line between the two.
Poulet au Chasseur is definitely my favourite of the two recipes. Its reddish-brown sauce is made from Fond Brun (which is more fun to make than Fond Blanc), the mushrooms are very cutesy, the potatoes soak up the gravy and taste delicious. The L’Ancienne was easier to make but I reckon a parent would have to put up a good ol’ fight with the kiddies (and me) to get them to eat chicken in a boring white sauce with steamed vegetables when there’s Poulet au Chasseur and KFC as serious contenders.
Poulet au Chasseur
2 chicken breasts
4 chicken legs
200g baby button mushrooms, escaloped
3 shallots, emincer
Bunch of tarragon, hacher
50 potato noisettes (usually takes about 6-7 medium-sized spuds), blanched in cold water brought to the boil, strained, and sauteed in oil till coloured evenly
Fond Brun de Volaille (brown chicken stock)
200g plain flour
0.5 cup of cognac
1.5 cups of white wine
1. Season chicken. Coat chicken in flour and dust off excess. Heat oil in pan. Cook chicken skin-side down on pan and put small pieces of butter in for colour and taste (adding in butter later prevents it from burning). Spoon over oil and butter mix over the top. Turn chicken over when skin is nice and golden and cook over side. Place chicken in a 180C oven and cook till done. Breasts take 15 minutes, legs take a bit longer, say 20 minutes. Chicken is cooked when firm to the touch. so check at frequent intervals. Once chicken is cooked, reserve warm.
2. Remove excess fat from the pan. Sautee the shallots for a couple of minutes and add in the muckers and sautee for 5-6 minutes. Flambe with half a cup of cognac and deglaze with 1.5 cups of white wine.
3. Add half a litre of stock and reduce with the shallots, mushrooms and half the tarragon.
4. Place the chicken in the sauce and cook a further 5-6 minutes (till re-heated).
5. Add the potato noisettes and tarragon to finish garnish.
Fricassée de Volaille à l’Ancienne avec Legumes Primeurs
2 chicken breasts
2 chicken legs
4 turnips, peeled and quartered
6 carrots, peeled
10 tiny potatoes, peeled and turned
10 tiny onions, peeled
1 cup cream
0.5L White chicken stock
1 onion, ciseler
2 tbsp flour
Fresh tarragon leaves
1. Cook each type of vegetable separately in a pan with water, pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, knob of butter, and covered with parchment paper. Be careful not to colour any (especially the onions). Reserve warm.
2. Season the chicken. Roast a little skin-side down in a pan. Careful not to colour. Remove and reserve.
3. Add onion ciseler and cook (don’t colour!) with butter and 2 tbsp flour to form a roux.
4. Add a little chicken stock to make a thick sauce. Place chicken in pan and pour over the rest of the chicken stock. Cook the breasts for 15 minutes and the legs for 20 minutes over a simmer.
5. Remove chicken. Reduce sauce and add cream. Check seasoning. Add chicken and cook for 2 minutes.
6. Add vegetables in sauce to re-heat and serve with fresh tarragon.