Stuffed Chicken "Poule au Pot"
Time: 1 1/2 hours (or 4 hours including time for sub-recipes), plus a few hours resting time
When Suzanne and I first talked about this dish, she made it sound simple:"It's just a stuffed chicken leg served with a little broth, inspired by the traditional poule au pot." And, to her credit, when it's on the table in front of you, it seems an honest creation, a barely dandified version of that French classic.
But as I saw in her kitchen (and you can tell from the supplementary recipes here) this dish is a labor of love. The good news is that each of the components has uses beyond just this dish, so they're worthwhile additions to your culinary repertoire; taken individually, they're really not difficult.
6 large chicken legs, deboned, with the skin on
1 tablespoon fennel seed, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant, then crushed or ground
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
6 (6 x 6-inch) pieces caul fat, available at most good butchers, about 1 pound
1 recipe Herb-Garlic Butter (see recipe in companion book)
Salt and black pepper
1 recipe Fennel-Sage Stuffing (see recipe in companion book)
1 recipe Sage Broth (see recipe in companion book)
1 recipe Cornichon Sauce (see recipe in companion book)
1 recipe Fried Sage (see recipe in companion book)
1. In a large resealable bag or bowl, marinate the chicken legs with the fennel seed, garlic, and lemon for at least 6 hours, or overnight, refrigerated.
2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lay the squares of caul fat out on a work surface. Place 1/2 tablespoon Herb-Garlic Butter in the center of each piece. Season both sides of the chicken legs with salt and pepper and lay one skin side down on top of each pat of butter. Nestle little H-cup balls of stuffing onto the center of each chicken leg, then gather up the caul fat and bring it over the top of the chicken, using the membrane to help shape each chicken leg into a rough "ball," enclosing the stuffing. Twist the caul fat at the top so that it will hold the chicken balls closed. Then carefully turn the little packages over, seal sides down, onto a rack set over a baking sheet. (There should be some stuffing remaining.)
3. Transfer the chicken legs to a pan and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the meat is done, the skin crispy, and the caul fat melted (it will virtually disappear). If there's still a little nubbin of caul fat on the seam side of the chicken, snip or slice it off before serving your guests.
4. Let the chicken legs rest for a few minutes before you assemble the dish and, in that time, run about 1 cup of the remaining stuffing under the broiler, until crisp on top. Add the blanched vegetables back to the broth (see Sage Broth recipe) and bring it to a boil.
5. To serve, put 2 tablespoons stuffing at the center of each of 6 large shallow bowls. Ladle 1/2 cup or more broth into each bowl, portioning the vegetables evenly, and then perch the chicken on top of the stuffing. Spoon 1 tablespoon Cornichon Sauce over the chicken, garnish the bowl with Fried Sage, and serve immediately.