Sunday, September 19, 2010

One pot meal taken to the extreme!

I had the good fortune to meet Jennifer McLagan yesterday. She's the author of the cookbooks "Fat" and "Bones" -- which have pretty self explanatory content (i.e. not vegan). She was at a book signing at the opening of the Manotick Village Butcher, which seemed like a great spot. I didn't manage to buy anything because they'd been pretty much cleared out by the time I got there, but I did get to snag a few seconds talking to Jennifer about confit of duck...

...and of course she signed my books!

So, naturally, I had to do a post from her cookbooks. I chose one from the Bones book called Poached Chicken with Seasonal Vegetables. I'd been thinking of finding some way to cook up extra chicken so I can have it on hand for sandwiches, and this looked like just the ticket. I also had a carcass lying around (well, in the freezer) and was planning to make stock anyway, and since the chicken poaches in stock, I figured I could combine all this into one massive chickeny explosion. I am glad I did.

The first step is to make some chicken stock. We already know how to do this, of course.

Make sure the stock will be pretty much done about an hour before you want to eat. Strain it as usual, but put it right back into the stock pot afterwards -- we're gonna cook the chicken in there now.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken, but I couldn't find one yesterday (!) so I went for parts instead. Actually, I think this works great too, since you don't have a big empty chicken cavity taking up all the space in your pot. It also calls for various seasonal vegetables. I chose leeks and carrots (and corn on the cob!) because I like those things. The sky's the limit here, although if you go for colourful stuff like beets, or strongly flavoured stuff like Brussels sprouts, the stock you have at the end of the recipe might look or taste a little weird, respectively.

So, just chuck all your stuff in the pot and let it simmer gently for an hour (most of it sinks, as you can probably guess from the photo).

If you decide to use corn on the cob, chuck that in about 5-10 minutes before the hour is up.

Then fish out all your goodies, serve up on a platter (as you can see, I don't have one, but we do what we can), and dig in! (If you use a whole chicken, Jennifer [note the first-name basis] recommends tying a cheesecloth handle on the bird so you can get it out of the pot without all the pieces falling apart in a general mayhem sort of way.) This is so brilliant: a couple of kinds of vegetables, meat, and you can even serve the stock as a first course soup if you skim the fat off. You could probably even cook a pasta in there too (although I guess fishing it out would be a trick, but still!).

And the verdict? Well, the leeks were brilliant; the corn, stellar; the chicken breast, lovely; the legs, out of this world; and the carrots, freakin'-A.

And of course the great side effect of this recipe is that you have a mountain of awesome chicken stock to (somehow) fire into the freezer for future genius recipes! Remember to leave all the fat in there until after it spends a night in the fridge cooling down -- keep your options open, my friend.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pour a glass of Scotch (I presume McLagan is Scottish, but even if it isn't I'm going to do it anyway) and watch a Star Trek movie (just to hear Mr. Scott, of course -- and there's the "Bones" connection too. Holy synchronicity!). Cheers!!

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