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This classic French dish has all the makings of a carefree winter evening spent warming yourself up with a good, flavorful chicken and a bottle (or two) of full bodied wine. Poule au Pot (chicken in a pot) is all about keeping it rustic and making it easy on the cook. Tuck the bird, seasonings, and veggies into a pot, add liquid, seal tightly, and cook. The chicken and vegetables gently braise leaving tender, falling-off-the-bone chicken, flavorful vegetables that are simmered in chicken broth, and an intensely aromatic liquid that begs for a chewy French bread.
That said, my first try turned out miserably, but I was to blame. Raw veggies tossed in the pot with heaps of liquid turned the dish into a bland soup. Plus, who was I to think that all vegetables cook at the same rate? They don't (obviously), and after cooking the bird for about an hour, I ended up with a pot of mushy potatoes.
Success came the second time around. I sautéed aromatics with smoky bacon and sage to make the broth rich and full-flavored, then deglazed the pot with white wine and a minimal amount of chicken broth. I nestled the chicken in, along with large pieces of waxy potatoes, and simmered. About halfway through cooking time, I added the sweet potatoes, and by the time the bird was done, all of the vegetables were perfectly tender.
Some classic recipes seal the chicken in tightly with a layer of dough, but not being able to check my dish as it's cooking makes me nervous and I thought the dough was unnecessary, so I skipped that. For me, a heavy duty pot and lid and minimal peeking is fine. And as for oven braising versus stovetop? As usual, if I'm expecting it to be cooked in an hour or less, I just go with stovetop.
Serve the pot with the chicken and all right on the table, or spoon it into a large serving bowl. The chicken is incredibly moist and succulent, and the broth potent. Ladle the liquid over couscous, or simply roll up your sleeves and dig right in with a chunk of crusty baguette.