Sunday didn’t start out rainy. I woke up at 9:30, and despite feeling a bit low-energy, I grabbed my yoga bag (which I somehow had the foresight to pack the night before) and headed out the door to get my butt kicked for an intense hour and a half. By the time I left the studio, it had become overcast, and a cool, late summer rain was falling. As I walked an umbrella-less mile back to my apartment, I realized it was the perfect weather for that rare and elusive treat: light comfort food. In other words, it was time to make poule au pot! I first saw this peasant’s poached chicken and vegetable dish being prepared on one of my favorite cooking shows, Laura Calder’s French Food at Home. It’s incredibly easy and serves up all beautiful and mellow, with buttery flavors that make you think it’s more indulgent than it is. Since the chicken and veggies are poached, you not only have a very healthy dish on your hands, you’ve also got a whole bonus pot-ful of super-flavorful chicken broth leftover, to do with as you wish. And as for the chicken, I serve it in a pool of hot broth with the veggies and a little pile of quinoa on the side, but let me tell you, it is perfect for chicken salad too. Whatever you do with it, poule au pot has all the warming and homey power of comfort food, with none of the greasy richness. This is the magic of chicken in a pot–what’s not to love?
1 whole chicken
2 bay leaves
5 whole cloves garlic, skin on
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
3 turnips, halved
2 parsnips, peeled and cut to about the size of the turnips
3 carrots, peeled and cut to match the parsnips
3 celery stalks, cleaned and cut in two
2 leeks, sliced longways, halved shortways, and washed (I find it’s easier to cut leeks first, then wash them after)
1 onion, quartered (Laura Calder suggests pearl onions, but I didn’t have any)
Place the chicken in a deep pot, breast-side up. Fill the pot with water until it covers the chicken. Add the bay leaves and garlic and bring to a boil. Skim the foam off the surface of the water every few minutes.
After the foam has stopped forming, add the thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, tarragon, and salt and pepper. Cook on a low boil for 30 minutes.
After 30 minute have passed, flip the chicken over so that the breast side is down. Turn the heat down slightly and cook another 10 minutes.
Next, add the turnips, parsnips, and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes.
Then add the celery and onion. Cook 5 minutes.
Finally, add the leeks to the pot. Cook 5 minutes.
That’s all! After a total of 60 minutes of chicken-poaching, with the veggies staggered so that they’re all just perfectly fork-tender, you’ve got an efficiently glorious dish that will make you pat yourself on the back a few times. My, you’re a good chef. Now eat some chicken.