This simple French country dish hails from the Picardy region of France. Picardy is a French region stretching north from the suburbs of Paris and vineyards of Champagne to the beaches of the Bay of Somme on the English Channel. Regional capital Amiens is a university city known for its Gothic cathedral, the floating gardens on its canals and Jules Verne’s former home, which is now a museum.
The Picardy region definitely knows how to take the most of its landscapes; offering a hearty, varied food thanks to local crops. Markets in Picardy are really popular and attract the foodies from Paris who look for gourmet products like the pâté de canard (pâté en croute) from Amiens or the Flamiche leek pie. The delicious gâteau battu or the famous “chantilly” whipped cream is from the town of Chantilly.
Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme is loosely translated as Good Woman Chicken Casserole .It is basically a casserole that features roasted chicken with bacon, onions, and potatoes. Occasionally, mushroom and carrots can be added as a variation. This recipe is also suitable for either a whole chicken or chicken portions, but I opted to use Cornish Hens. For a special occasion, a dry white wine can be substituted for the chicken stock, or half wine, half stock could be used. Traditionally, this dish is served with Petits Pois a la Francaise.
This recipe is perfect for a Sunday dinner with the family.
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 pound bacon
4 Tablespoons butter
Three 1 ¼-pound Cornish Hens
15 to 25 peeled white pearl onions
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes
1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 to 4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 bouquet garni (made with 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in washed cheesecloth)
Preheat an oven to 400 º F.
In a oven-proof casserole, saute the bacon for 2 to 3 minutes until browned. Transfer to a dish and set aside.
Add the mushrooms to the same casserole and saute the mushrooms for 2 to 3 minutes in 1 tablespoon of the butter until lightly browned. Transfer to a dish and set aside.
Rub olive oil on the outside of the hens and season with salt and pepper.Place the hens in a roasting pan and cover with foil and roast for 30 to 35 minutes.Remove the hens from the oven and pour the fat out of the pan into a measuring cup and set aside.
Reduce the oven at 350 º F.
In a separate saucepan add water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.Drop the onions into boiling, salted water and boil slowly for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Next , peel the potatoes and cut them into uniform ovals about 2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain immediately.
In the casserole, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter until foaming. Add the potatoes and roll them around over moderate heat for 2 minutes to evaporate their moisture; this will prevent them for sticking to the bottom of the casserole. Spread potatoes in the pan. Add the hens placing them breast side up in the casserole. Add some of the pan juices and pour in the stock and stir to blend .Add the bacon and onions on top of the potatoes and hens; add the bouquet garni and carrots. Baste all the ingredients with the butter and juices in the casserole, lay a piece of foil over the chicken, and cover the casserole.
Transfer the casserole to the oven and roast for an additional 3o to 35 minutes , basting the hens every and 10 minutes with butter until the juices run clear and the thickest part of the hens legs registers 165 to 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. If using mushrooms, add these 10 minutes before the end of cooking time.Baste once or twice with the juices.
Discard the bouquet garni and adjust the sauce for seasoning.Removed the hens from the casserole, cut into serving portions and arranged on a hot serving platter, surrounded by potatoes and sauteed vegetables
The sauce can either be poured over the chicken and the whole dish sprinkled with parsley, or the hens can be sprinkled with parsley and the sauce served separately on the side.