As the calendar flips to October I feel it is time to start cooking more regularly in the kitchen. This week, in celebration of kicking off fall menus, I decided to make a simple one pot dinner: Poulet Normande, or Chicken Normandy. A delicious, early fall dinner to help warm up the now chilly nights.
Isn’t it interesting how certain dish ‘styles’ have distinct ingredients? For example, when you see anything labeled ‘Florentine’ you can pretty much figure it is going to have spinach in it. Same thing with anything labeled ‘Normande’ or ‘Normandy;’ you can count on apples being the main flavor. Ok, those are only two regions I can think of off the top of my head but you get the idea. The best and most abundant local ingredients will always find their way into a region’s cuisine and become a characteristic. Though I’m not sure spinach is a dominant crop of Florence! Hmmm, wait a minute, Florence was a banking center, and since spinach is an old slang term for money…
[Side Roam: On researching this, I discovered I was actually closer than I thought. According to Wikipedia, Catherine de Medici (of the banking family) discovered spinach when she became queen of France and loved it so much she wanted it served at every meal. Spinach dishes became ‘Florentine’ in honor of her hometown. That’s Florence, in case you didn’t figure it out.]
Where was I? Ah yes, regional cuisine and dominant local ingredients. Normandy is known for apples. They grow a lot of them there and the region is a large producer of ciders and the famous apple brandy, Calvados. So of course apples show up in the food and of course the apples go with many other Normandy foods like cheese, mussels, butter, cream, pastries…funny how things pair together, no?
And since apples are totally a fall food, almost any ‘Normande’ dish fits the season. They add a wonderful sweetness to braising sauces. Not only that but I think the sauces made with apples are medium in weight, making them a very good transition from summer’s citrusy vinaigrettes and marinades to heavier, starchier, winter stews and braises laden with wine reductions, beef stocks, and demiglace. The sauce I made from this chicken braise is a good example of this thought. Not much in the way of mirepoix, just a bit of fennel and some carrots, and apples and apple ale. A very light sauce, even with the addition of some cream.
I cannot lie, it’s great to have fall cooking back!
- 3 whole chicken leg quarters
- 3 carrots, large dice
- 3 Tbs minced fennel
- 1 apple, medium dice
- 3 oz bacon cut into chunks
- 8 oz mushrooms, quartered
- ½ C Calvados, or apple brandy
- 1 C water
- 12 oz apple ale or apple cider
- ½ Tbs thyme
- Olive oil
- ½ C heavy cream
- Salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
Melt 2 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat on the stove top.
Season the chicken legs with salt and pepper. Brown the legs one at a time in the Dutch oven. Remove and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add the carrots, fennel, and bacon. Cook for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme. Cook for another 2 minutes.
Pour in calvados and scrape up the bottom of the pot. Add the water and apple ale, bring to a simmer.
Put the chicken legs back in the pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook for 40 minutes.
Remove chicken legs and set aside. Reduce the sauce by half over medium high heat on the stove. Whisk in the cream. Simmer for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange chicken legs on a platter and pour sauce over, then serve.