Chicken with Bacon, Onions, and Potatoes

by Sara on February 15, 2009

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Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme. The French name sounds so much prettier, does it not? After wandering around the Internet a bit this week, I saw Deb’s creation of Coq au Vin over at Smitten Kitchen. I’ve been wanting to make that dish for awhile now, but for this particular occasion, I was looking for more of a one pot wonder.

Off the shelf came Julia, and I started looking through the chapter of casserole-roasted chicken and settled on Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme. I had my hesitations, however. You see, I’m not all that crazy about bacon. I know some people consider that blasphemy, but I stand by my words. (I did Atkins for a year and ate enough bacon to cover a lifetime, ok?) Bacon had probably held me back from trying more of Julia’s recipes (including the coq au vin), but that’s all changed now.

The woman had a way with food, that’s for sure. Or maybe it’s the “boil the bacon” technique, which is supposed to remove some of the smoky/salty taste. I enjoyed the more delicate hint of bacon, but if you want to be hit over the head with bacon flavor, you may want to skip the boiling step. If that doesn’t change your mind, there’s always the look of simmering bacon. It’s absolutely disgusting, and if I didn’t place 100% trust in Julia, I likely would have given up at this point and just roasted the chicken.

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Looks lovely, doesn’t it?

But I followed the directions as instructed and kept my fingers crossed. I prepared myself for a dish that probably would taste better than it looked; you brown the chicken on all sides early in the recipe, but you’re essentially steaming it inside the dutch oven, so that crispy brown skin will be long gone, though the flavors will remain. And though I wish I was smart enough to pull that little gem out of nowhere…I saw it on America’s Test Kitchen a few weeks back.

When all is said and done…this is a very, very good dish. Surprisingly, the best part was the potatoes. They really absorbed ALL of the flavors in that pot. The other surprising part, considering the grumbling of my stomach before I sat down to dinner, is that I’m not sure I even ate half of what was on my plate.

And then I thought back to the recipe. The bacon. The butter. Perhaps it’s not so surprising that I couldn’t finish my portion. I even left one lone potato on my plate, and folks, that’s really a travesty.

This is a dish to sit back and enjoy. There are a few steps in the beginning, but then you can pretty much just throw it in the oven and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.

I highly recommend a glass of wine to go with dinner; its acidity will cut through the rich dish very nicely.

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Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme (Casserole-Roasted Chicken with Bacon, Onions, and Potatoes)
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1/2 lb bacon
1 T butter
4 lb chicken
15-25 peeled white onions
1 lb small new potatoes
3 T butter
1/4 tsp salt
herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, small bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth (I skipped the cheesecloth and just tied everything together with kitchen string)
bulb baster
ovenproof casserole or dutch oven

Serves 4

1. Cut the bacon into strips 1/2 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long. Simmer in water for 10 minutes, rinse in cold water, and dry. Saute the bacon in the dutch oven for 2-3 minutes in 1 T butter until lightly browned. Remove to a side dish, leaving the fat in the dutch oven.

2. Brown the chicken in the bacon fat. Remove the chicken to a side dish and pour out the bacon fat.

3. Preheat oven to 325 F.

4. Drop onions in boiling, salted water for five minutes. Drain and set aside. (I used frozen pearl onions that had been thawed, so I omitted this step.)

5. Peel the potatoes (I used fingerlings). Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain.

6. Heat butter in the dutch oven over medium heat until it foams. Add potatoes and roll them in the butter for two minutes. Spread aside the potatoes, salt the chicken and place it in the middle, breast side up. Add the bacon and onions on top of the potatoes, and add the herb bouquet. Baste everything with butter from the dutch oven. Place aluminum foil over the chicken, and place the lid on the dutch oven.

7. Heat the dutch oven on the stovetop until everything is sizzling, then place it in the oven for about 70 minutes or until juices run clear, basting once or twice. No separate sauce is needed.

This dish isn’t one to wow in presentation, but it’s not meant to. It is, however, bistro cooking at its best.

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