I have been a member of Cooks Illustrated (a culinary arm of America’s Test Kitchen) for many years. I love this site (and magazine) because they test a popular recipe (like apple pie) in various ways with different methodologies and ingredients and then give you the best version of the recipe. This saves me a lot of time and money in testing recipes myself. I will sometimes take their “best” recipes and then adapt them with organic or better quality ingredients and healthier cooking methods (they are a fan of using the microwave for shortcuts, I am not). French Chicken in a Pot is one of those recipes. I am using a pastured chicken for this recipe. Yes, pastured chickens are not always easy to find, but the flavor and health benefits are worth going the extra mile to procure.
The basic idea of French Chicken in a Pot is to brown a whole chicken in a Dutch oven with onions, garlic, celery, rosemary and bay leaves and then finish it off in the oven at low heat. This cooking method allows for the chicken to simmer in its own juices. As advised by Cooks Illustrated, the cooking times in the recipe are for a 4½ – to 5-pound bird. A 3½ – to 4½-pound chicken will take about an hour to cook, and a 5- to 6-pound bird will take close to 2 hours. I added a carrot to this recipe as well as white wine to the jus to enhance the flavor.
Cooks Illustrated also advises to use a 5- to 8-quart Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. They say, “If using a 5-quart pot, do not cook a chicken larger than 5 pounds”. They also suggest using foil to place tightly over the pot and under the lid to keep the juices in, but I am not comfortable cooking with foil so I have removed this step, but still find I have plenty of pan juices to pour over my chicken when I serve.
Please note, this is not a dish that will yield a crispy, succulent skin. It’s benefit is the flavor as it is slow cooked at low heat in its own juices. The skin is a little more on the soggy side, but where the skin lacks, the flavor makes up for it. Use the best chicken you can find, such as a free range, organic, locally pastured chicken or ideally locally pastured and organic bird.
The amount of jus (remaining pan juices) will vary depending on the size of the chicken; season it with about ¼ teaspoon lemon juice for every ¼ cup jus or simmer it a bit with 2 tablespoons of dry white wine. I have modified America’s Test Kitchen’s best version of this recipe and have made it a little bit more “Amanda Love” style. Thank you to America’s Test Kitchen for inspiring this recipe. Enjoy and Happy Cooking!
Note: If you want to crisp up your skin a bit, remove the lid, brush chicken with a bit of olive oil or fat of choice and place back in over at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes until skin is browned.
- 1 whole roasting chicken (4½ to 5 pounds), giblets removed, wings tucked in
- 2 teaspoons good salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black or white pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter, ghee, coconut oil, lard, beef tallow, chicken fat or duck fat
- 1 small onion, diced (about ½ cup)
- 1 small stalk celery, diced (about ¼ cup)
- 1 carrot - diced (about ¼ cup)
- 6 medium garlic cloves, skin removed but left whole
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium sprig fresh rosemary; left on stem (optional)
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- ½ - 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon (optional)
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees.
- Wash and pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper (making sure the chicken is completely dry is a very essential step for proper browning).
- Heat fat in large Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary around chicken.
- Cook until breast is lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.
- Using a wooden spoon or tongs inserted into cavity of bird, flip chicken breast-side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir veggies occasionally while they cook.
- Remove Dutch oven from heat; cover tightly with lid.
- Transfer pot to oven and cook until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 80 to 110 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from pot through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about ¾ cup juices).
- Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low heat. Add white wine and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes until alcohol evaporates. Alternatively, instead of wine, you can also add lemon juice to jus right before serving.
- Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan.
- Serve chicken, passing jus at table.