Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Once More for the French Chicken

I seem to be working on a theme, here, but it wasn’t intentional. Just one of those one-thing-led-to-another processes. This will, however, be the last dip into Escoffier for a bit. For me, the egg definitely came before the chicken breast, and now we’re tackling the whole bird; answering the important question:

Why did the chicken go into the oven?

Because there was a blanket of butter waiting for her, of course.

Roast chicken has been experiencing a bit of a revival among foodies. It seems that something so simple and satisfying still takes some sort of skill to pull off well. To that end, I submit Poêling (pronounced PWAWL-ing).

Poêling is roasting but it’s a particular type of roasting. Here’s what the chef, himself, has to say about the method:

Method for Poêling:

Place a layer of Matignon in a deep heavy pan just large enough to hold the piece of meat or poultry; well season, place the item on top of the vegetables and coast well with melted butter. Cover with the lid, place in a not too hot oven and allow to cook gently, basting frequently with the butter.

When cooked, remover the lid and allow the meat or poultry to become well coloured then remove it to a dish and keep covered until required.

Add sufficient clear well flavoured brown veal stock to the vegetables which should not have been allowed to burn, bring to the boil and allow to simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Strain, remove the fat carefully and send the gravy in a sauceboat with the meat which would normally be surrounded with a garnish.

So there’s the big secret: basting with butter.

Now, before anyone starts to talk about a certain Savannah food personality who will remain nameless, please note that I used less than 2 sticks of butter for this recipe and that the resulting gravy is de-fatted before serving. There is a difference between using just enough butter to get the job done and pouring the butterfat straight into ones arteries.

Let’s Poêle, Shall We?

Preheat our oven to 375° Fahrenheit and melt 7 oz of butter ( 1 3/4 sticks) and set aside.

Matignon igredientsPrepare the Matignon. Combine your basic mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, 1 part celery) with ham, bay leaves and thyme and sweat together in butter until the ham begins to color a bit and the onions become translucent.I was, unfortunately, out of celery that evening so substituted a green bell pepper with no ill effects.
Matignon in the bottom of the casserole dishAdd the prepared Matignon to the bottom of a roasting dish. My small clay baker was just a smidgen too snug and the turkey roaster overkill, so I went with a casserole dish deep enough to accommodate the bird, Matignon and the drippings and added a foil cover before placing in the oven.
The seasoned and butter-basted chicken ready for the oven.Rinse and pat dry your roasting hen (or whatever else you’d like to poêle). Tuck the wings behind the back (to prevent burning) and truss the legs closed. Season with salt and pepper (most of the flavor comes from the basting liquid and the Matignon below) and place on top of the Matignon.

Baste the bird with the melted butter, cover with either the lid for the roasting dish or tented foil (to prevent the skin sticking to it) and place into the oven. Baste again every 15-20 minutes until the thigh registers 150° Fahrenheit. By this point you should have run out of the melted butter and be basting with the liquid from the bottom of the roasting dish.

Finished Poeled ChickenRemove the cover from the bird and place back into the oven until the thigh registers 160° Fahrenheit. The hope is that in cooking those 10 additional degrees the outside of the bird has turned a lovely golden brown. Here’s the thing, though: it may be more golden, less brown, but take it out anyway because it’s better to have a pale, tasty bird than a pretty, dried out one. All told it took around 2 hours to cook our little 4-pound chicken.
Matignon and drippings being simmered into gravySet the poêled chicken aside and reuse that foil to cover it, keeping in the heat while you make the gravy.Pour the Matignon and pan drippings back into your pan from earlier, add beef stock (no real measurement here, but I’d say no more than a cup–you should have plenty of liquid from the pan to work with, too), bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Straining the Matignon from the gravyStrain out the vegetables, ham and bay leaf from the gravy and de-fat what remains. De-fatting can be accomplished by skimming or dipping the edge of a white paper towel onto the top of the liquid and letting it absorb the fat (though that way can take a little while). One of those fat-separating measuring cups would really come in handy with this step!

Check the finished gravy for flavor (the seasonings from the poultry should make additional salt and pepper unnecessary, but it’s always good to check) and serve.

Poeled Chicken and Gravy over Quinoa, with Green Beans
Poêled Chicken and gravy over Quinoa, with Green Beans

This made for a delicious Sunday supper for us and the carcass went straight into the freezer for gumbo in the not-too-distant future.

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

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