comfort en cocotte

We had “Sunday dinner” tonight, one day late. I had meant it for yesterday, but a tempting invitation from friends to come over and eat chocolate cake all afternoon kept me away. Poor poor me.

It’s officially cold here, in the southern shadow of Lake Ontario. Upon her winds came a rollicking afternoon blizzard yesterday, and with them a reminder of simple, cozy meals. I am pretty sure my need for comfort food rises proportionately to the fall of the mercury. And so tonight, roast chicken.


I bought this lovely little 3 ½ pound roasting chicken at the farmer’s market last weekend from Wendy of Sweet Grass Farm just outside of Syracuse. She kindly explained to me (a long-time pseudo wannabee mostly vegetarian) the difference between broiler and stewing chickens and found a small broiler for us. Two days later my Jan-Feb Cook’s Illustrated arrived at my door boasting Chicken in a Pot — French Method, Juiciest Bird. A happy coincidence, no?

This experience deserved a post for two reasons. One, because it is our first local and grass-fed chicken. When you don’t buy a lot of meat, you can splurge on something that is especially good for you and for the earth. (Click to learn more about local and grass-fed meat.)

Two, it’s only my second time trying a famed Cook’s Illustrated recipe. The people at this magazine (aka America’s Test Kitchen) take cooking very seriously, approaching recipes like science experiments. Having been burried in the humanities for years, I figured they could teach me how to turn a special bird into dinner. As I read through two pages of how the author perfected this simple French delicacy, poulet en cocotte, my mouth watered at promises of “succulent meat” and “unforgettable flavour.”

The idea of cooking chicken in a covered pot in its own juices forgoes the KFC-esque obsession with crispy skin for even more tender meat. Since I usually avoid eating more than a wee bite of skin anyway, I thought I’d give this “focus on the meat” method a try. As the author says, it “will never place first in a beauty contest” but is always first in flavour and juiciness.

Delivered up on a plate with a wild-rice blend pilaf (with toasted almonds and cranberries), steamed broccoli and boiled beets, I almost put my head out into the frigid air and said bring it on, Winter.

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