Note to Self:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Clay Pot Chicken

The 30th president of our country, Herbert Hoover, once uttered these famous words of hope and positive thought for our nation as we went through tough times of another era: "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." Now I of course agree with the first half of the sentence but not the latter portion...in my view we would be a better nation if he finished the statement with "...and a bike at every post."

At any rate, the chicken-in-a-pot theory is a good 0ne...on a cold night like we had last night it permeates the house with both warmth and an intoxicating aroma...gives the house a sort of homey Norman Rockwell feel.

And rather than cooking a chicken in a "traditional pot" I chose, last night, to cook it in a clay pot. The beauty of clay pot cookery is twofold: Firstly, everything is contained to one vessel. And secondly, the meal--no matter what it is--is guaranteed to come out moist and Delicious...the food steams as it cooks...you basically put it in the oven and leave it for a while.

(To learn more about clay pots, or if you'd like to purchase one, click here, here, here, or here.)

The recipes, of course, are seemingly endless, but this is how I made mine:

The first thing in preparation for clay pot cooking is to soak the pot in cool water for about 20 minutes. The clay actually absorbs some of the moisture which in turn steams your food as it cooks. I simply open the pot in the sink and fill it with water, transfer it to a counter, and let it soak while I prepare the other items.

Next, after removing the giblets, wash your chicken inside and out with cold water.

Then pat it dry.

This is not necessary, but I like to put onions and garlic in the chicken's cavity...as the chicken cooks it flavors from the inside-out. Herbs and chilies--or whatever flavors you like--work well also, but there wasn't nary a fresh herb in the house.

Added fat is not really necessary with clay pot cooking, but I like to rub a little olive oil one the chicken (butter is good, too), and then season it inside and out with salt and pepper.

I also like to truss a bird before I cook it...and again, this too is an optional step, but being a professional cook I am compelled to use classic cooking techniques...even at home. Trussing a bird keeps it in a neat package and everything cooks evenly. (There are as many ways to truss a bird as there are cooks who truss them, but if you need a basic tutorial there's a pretty good one at this site.)

You can place your chicken directly into the pot, but I chose to make a "bed" for it, using sliced onion, cabbage, and whole garlic cloves...this later becomes part of the meal.

After placing the chicken in the pot, surround it by whatever vegetables you have or would like to eat. I added baby carrots and a couple potatoes that I cut into thick slices.

Now here's the best part (well, almost, because the best part is eating it)...put it in a cold oven (yes a cold oven), turn the heat to 450F, and fugetaboutit (forget about it). At 450F the chicken will take about an hour, maybe an hour-and-a-half to cook.

After about an hour check the temperature using a probe thermometer (stick it in the inner thigh, which is the thickest and last part of the bird to cook). The bird is done when it reaches 160F.

If you'd like the skin brown and crispy (which I do) remove the lid and cook it for another 20 minutes or so.

As the chicken and vegetables steam and bake they will excrete some of their own natural juices, which can then be made into a sauce or gravy...or the juice can be used in it's most simple fashion as a form or poulet au jus, which is how I chose to eat my dinner.

I'll finish with two words: simple and delicious!

2 comments:

Kevin said...

Thanks for sharing this.

It jogged my memory that I had a clay cooker hiding in a cupboard somewhere. I think I will do the chicken recipe today.

Just the thing for a cold Toronto afternoon.

Cheers
Kevin

Joe said...

Kevin...awesome, thanks!