Having spent each youth occasion and entire summers of my 20s in France, I liked I knew the spot a bit. I’d slid down its mountains in winter, and done my time in the August jams on the autoroute du soleil – yet when I set off to cycle around the nation for a book two or three years back, I understood that I’d scarcely started to expose what’s underneath, particularly when it came to food.
Obviously, I was cheerfully acquainted with the large hitters like coq au vin and moules marinère, that speak to French cooking abroad, and I had in excess of a passing associate with the amazing southern kinds of Provence. However, much French provincial cooking is far subtler – regardless of the well known generalization, it wasn’t until I hit Marseille that I truly tasted garlic.
As I got into my umpteenth plate of completely poached white fish in beurre blanc sauce, I really wanted to think insightfully about the red hot mustards and hot sauces sitting on my rack at home. Not that these things aren’t eaten and appreciated in France, obviously, yet on the off chance that you stick to exemplary French cafés, you’re probably not going to run over them frequently.
At that point, half a month in, I had a disclosure. It came after a wet 83 miles in the seat in the hazy shadow of the Pyrenees, in the city of Pau, home of poule au pot. This straightforward chicken and vegetable stew possesses a consecrated spot in the French heart, to a great extent because of its relationship with Good King Henry, ruler of France from 1589-1610. However, after 400 years, sitting in the comfortable lounge area of the redoubtable Chez Olive, taking a gander at the steaming heap of beige before me, its attractions were not promptly self-evident. Sitting in a puddle of dinky stock were pale chicken, spooky turnips and a pale cabbage leaf loaded down with something earthy colored. The Chez Olive was an installation of the nearby food scene for more than 70 years until it unfortunately shut recently.
However from the primary piece of the carefully exquisite alcohol, with its brilliant coins of drifting fat, it was clear this dish required nothing more. No splodge of lime pickle or run of malt vinegar might have improved this totally adjusted, magnificently calming dish. It was a bowl of unadulterated joy. Furthermore, as I guzzled and the downpour actually poured, I mirrored that I’d been overlooking what’s really important. Antiquated French cooking is well mannered: it makes progress toward the agreement of discreetly correlative flavors as opposed to the dissonance of enormous, boisterous, conflicting ones. There are, I’m certain, more extensive equals to be drawn here … yet I simply do food.
The stuffing and vegetables are there to extend the week after week chicken further, however truth be told make it a total dish in its own right. At Chez Olive they serve it with rice, which is additionally a decent method to absorb the abundant stock. This is a dish that it’s well worth purchasing a decent chicken for – by which I mean a chicken that is carried on with life a piece, and got an opportunity to build up some flavor. They’re a lot harder to discover in the UK than France: in the event that you can’t get to a butchers or ranch shop, attempt on the web. (I discovered one with feet, which was exciting, yet not carefully fundamental.) The feathered creature shouldn’t be immense, as there’s sufficient other stuff here to keep everybody glad.
Start with the stuffing. Dissolve the spread in a little skillet over a medium-low warmth and sauté the shallots until delicate, at that point add the garlic, thyme leaves and nutmeg. Fry for a couple more minutes, at that point permit to cool.
Then, finely slash the livers, disposing of any wiry pieces, and put them in a huge bowl. Add the frankfurter meat and breadcrumbs and mix in, at that point add the cognac and season. Blend well.
Put generally ⅔ of the stuffing inside the chicken, at that point either close the neck up, or use mixed drink sticks to make sure about it (my favored technique).
Carry 1.75 liters of chicken stock to the bubble in a huge pot with the peppercorns, and add the chicken. Take back to the bubble, at that point turn down the warmth and stew tenderly for 45 minutes, at that point add the vegetables and cook for 30-45 minutes more until both the chicken and the vegetables are done (if the chicken’s juices run clear from the thickest piece of the thigh before the veg is done, lift it cautiously out of the pot and put aside to keep warm, at that point turn the warmth up under the dish).
In the interim, carry a container of salted water to the bubble. Painstakingly cut out the base of the extreme focal center from the cabbage leaves and dispose of, at that point whiten them for 2 minutes and cool under virus running water to stop them cooking any further. Dry well.
Stuff the cabbage leaves by rolling a liberal tablespoon of the leftover stuffing combination into a short chamber at the base of one of the leaves, over the cut stem, at that point wrap up the two sides and keep moving to the highest point of the leaf. Rehash with the remainder of the cabbage leaves, at that point place, crease down, in the base of the huge pot. Tip in the leftover 250ml stock and bring to a stew. Cover with a top and turn the warmth down low. Cook for 45 minutes at that point turn off the warmth however leave covered to keep warm.
When the chicken is done, keep it warm while you make the white sauce, if serving. Dissolve the margarine in a little sauce dish and afterward mix in the flour and cook for several minutes. Continuously, spoonful by spoonful, rush in the chicken stock the cabbage rolls were cooked in. When it’s smooth, remove the warmth and mix in the creme fraiche. Season to taste.
Cut the chicken and gap between shallow dishes with the stuffing, the cabbage moves, vegetables and a decent ladleful of stock. (On the off chance that the center of the stuffing looks pink, and this concerns you, fry it quickly in a hot container.) Serve with the white sauce, and steamed rice in the event that you’d prefer to mass it out further.