Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chicken à l'Armagnac

I bought myself a new pot over Christmas, and have been waiting for an oppotunity to properly christen it. Stand back! Here it is!

This recipe comes from Around my french table by Dorie Greenspan and it's as simple as it is delicious. The cookbook is wonderful, by the way (as you can probably guess from all the sticky notes attached to it); it has great photos, inspiring recipes, and nice stories and commentary throughout. My one quibble is the spine of the dust jacket. It has this picture of the author on it, and while I have no doubt that she's a charming person, in the photo it looks like she's peeking out from around a corner. This shouldn't be a big deal, but the cookbook shelf in my kitchen happens to be around a corner, and whenever I walk by I get startled by what looks like a little elf standing there and staring at me.

See?! It gives me the willies! (I know -- just remove the dust jacket. But not so fast, smarty pants: it's the same underneath!) Oh well, a small price to pay for easy access to good eats -- and I suppose we could all use a little startling now and again.

This is another chicken in a pot recipe, and is not all that much different (but different enough, of course). I remember reading a review of this cookbook, and someone complained that there were three, count 'em, THREE, roast chicken recipes in it. Imagine! They're all unique, but I suppose there are people out there who just run around looking for things to complain about. (Actually, I don't suppose, I know it.)

To make this, you need a Dutch oven (you need a Dutch oven regardless). Aside from the chicken, you'll also need about 8 small spuds, 3 roughly chopped onions (I used four leeks, unchopped), two carrots (mine were small, so there are three), a bay leaf, a sprig (or three!) of rosemary, a sprig of thyme (Canada being Canada at this time of year, my thyme is frozen solid under a whack of snow, so I used the dried version -- from the same plant, mind you), and some salt and pepper. You'll also need 1/2 cup of Armagnac. Armagnac is basically a brandy made from a specific set of grapes, so you can substitute brandy or Cognac instead if you like. But don't -- the bottle is WAY too cool!

Heat a splash of olive oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat for a few minutes (and get your regular oven started on the way to 450). Chop the vegetables in chunks that will cook in about an hour. I left the leeks as is, chopped the spuds in half (not so much to ensure they cook, but to ensure that they soak up all kinds of chicken fat and booze -- just sayin'), and split each carrot into three chunks or so. Dump all the vegetables in the pot and stir them around for a few minutes. I think the point here is to get them coated in oil and warm the pot rather than to do any cooking. Add the herbs and give them a stir.

Then push the vegetables to the sides and nestle the chicken into all that goodness. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. (The recipe calls for white pepper, but I'm fine with little black specks, it also says to rub-in the salt and pepper, but I'm not a big fan of rubbing chickens, so I sprinkle.) Then pour the booze in around the edges (I'm thinking bourbon might be fun to try here some day -- also just sayin'). Let the booze warm up for a couple of seconds, then put the lid on the Dutch oven and fire it into the oven for one hour.

Now you can sit around and guzzle some vino. You can cook some rice too if you want. Or maybe prepare some filet beans and get them ready for steaming. Whatever you like. I spent my time typing in all this crap (and guzzling vino, just so you don't feel too sorry for me).

An hour later, your chicken is cooked and it's time to make some sauce! (Be careful when you open the lid -- there will be lots of boozy steam. The danger lies in getting scaled and/or instantly getting hammered by 1/2 cup of Armagnac vapour.) I have heard that hunger makes the best sauce, but to be honest, sauce is even better! All you need to do (and don't tell your friends, because it's embarassingly simple) is get the chicken out of there, add a cup of water, and stir that around for about 5 minutes over medium heat. (The recipe suggests that you skim the fat off before making the sauce, but I never do that. I expect my lifespan will likely be shortend -- and rendered more awesome -- accordingly.)

A bowl is a good place to put the chicken while you are on sauciere duty. You can cover it in foil to keep it warm, or if you're thrifty and enviro conscious, (and ingenous enough to buy the right sized bowls and pots -- just sayin') you can use your pot lid.

The sauce comes out a little thin, so if you want something gravy-like be prepared to add some cornstarch or flour -- personally, I'd be reluctant to upset the flavour balance with the starch, but the soupy factor can be an issue if you don't have rice on the plate to soak it up.

Serve however you please. You can do the slicing and dicing in the kitchen, or arrange the bird and vegetables on a platter and plunk it all down on the table and serve from there. All that matters is that you enjoy the meal, have fun, and feel thankful that we get to do such things. It's recipes like this that keep me from being vegan ... recipes like this, and bacon.

If you have any leftovers, you're set for sandwiches the next day. And be sure to save the bones for chicken stock. Thanks for joining me on the maiden voyage of my blue pot, and bon appetit!!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and watch Starman. Then I'm going to spend the better part of next week saying stuff like "I look like Scott," and "Jenny Hayden," and "What is gas?" and "It's teriffic!", and "Ari-zona." You have been warned.


  1. I love the blue pot, a lot.

    Bon Voyage blue pot.

  2. Neat, eh? It's number three in the blue pot armada, four if you count the crepe pan. That's a lot to love! :D

  3. Stylin' blue pot! Seriously, this recipe would go well with a mountain of spaetzl. As all Bavarians know, spaetzl are some of the most effective gravy- and sauce-delivery systems known to man.

  4. Hi,
    I'm a french producer of Armagnac, and i've just created a facebook page "cuisiner à l'armagnac" for those who love using it in their recipes.
    I've just put yours on it, because i found it cool. If you want to exchange with us, it'd be a pleasure. a votre santé !

  5. (The URL is :!/pages/Cuisiner-a-lArmagnac/183641171655893 )

  6. You have to love the Armagnac!