Sunday, August 1, 2010

Liquid-ish gold

We decided to give "poulet en cocotte" a try a couple of days ago. The decision was largely spurred by the idea that as much as we love Costco rotisserie chicken, it isn't quite the locally pastured, humanly raised, nothing funky added (seasonings or whatever) that we would prefer. Don't get me wrong, I love the convenience and downright juicy goodness of the rotisserie chicken, so we were looking for some cooking method that would give us similarly tender juicy meat with only our own seasonings and bird.

I really like slow braising in my creuset at around 250 degrees in the oven, but (particularly) chicken benefits from some nice browning so I gave it (salted/peppered large chicken) a few minutes on each side w/olive oil over med/high heat. After that I tossed in a sliced onion, several cloves of garlic, some herbes de provence and as many carrots as would fit in the pot. Put the lid on and stuck the whole mess in the oven for a couple of hours. We were in a hurry, so after an hour and a half I took off the lid and jacked the heat up for a bit to get the carrots cooked.

The kids loved the carrots, and the chicken was ok too, but man, those carrots were a hit! Anyway, the skin was nicely seasoned and browned but obviously not ideally crispy, but the meat was pretty juicy and tender. So the meat was a step up from the usual high heat roasting, but the skin was a step down, Holy conundrum batman!

So here's the good part, throw all the bones and flabby skin bits, cartilage (ok, I ate most of it, I love that little nugget in the joints...) back in the pot with the mushy onion and garlic and cover with water and a splash of vinegar. Simmer for several hours (until the after dinner movie is over and dishes are done and kids are all asleep for example) and let cool. Strain the solids out by pouring through a colander, and put the liquid in the fridge. Check back later and be blown away by the layer of fat that you can now scoop into a jar to keep in the fridge as a sort of talisman against sandra lee and poor quality insta-fake-foods. Now, under that layer of fat should be a gelatinous (how solid will depend on how long you simmered, how much steam evaporated, etc...) chicken concentrate that is super useful in lubricating almost any dish that is lacking that certain "something". If you want a mug of yummy broth just heat it up, though you may want to add a little hot water. If you need some good strong stock for mixing in with say, lime and cilantro for lengua tacos (or any other "protein of choice" tacos) this is your best bet. Or, if you are like my kids, just eat cold "chicken jello" and call it YUM.

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