Once upon a time, in a universe far far away… Oops, wrong story. When I got married in 1976 (I was a babe in arms, of course), a friend of mine gave me a Le Creuset enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. It became my go-to pan for everything (of course, at the time I didn’t have a lot of cookware). It was the perfect size for four servings. It distributed the heat beautifully. I loved that thing.
Over the years, it started getting a bit grungy. Those of you who follow us at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen may have noticed that red pot whose white interior wasn’t exactly white any more. And there were a few chips around the edges. It was tired, even though I’d babied it for decades. But it still worked.
Then a friend told me something wonderful: Le Creuset has a life-time guarantee for its products. Lifetime. No questions asked (unless you drop it from a fifth-story window, maybe). No proof of purchase required. Send the old one to the factory, and they will send you a brand new one. I did.
It arrived on Monday. It is shiny and new. It is beautiful.
So I had to christen it. My first thought was to pull out the old faithful cookbook, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My copy is one I bought for myself when I graduated from college and moved to my first apartment, so it was even older than the old pot. It still gets a lot of use.
I started leafing through the chicken section. I’d already shared my version of Julia’s Tarragon Chicken here, so that was out. Looking at the recipes was kind of a time-travel trip: there was a lot of butter and cream and wine involved, although at least Julia called for fresh herbs and shallots. But it’s still summer-ish here, so I wanted something not too heavy to inaugurate my lovely red pot. Here’s what I came up with (with honors to Julia Child but updated):
Poulet Sauté (okay, Sauteed Chicken)
I’ll give you the recipe for four, but since there are only myself and my husband (and a cat who likes chicken) at home, I’ll cook only for two.
3 pounds frying chicken, cut into pieces
2 Tblsp butter plus 1 Tblsp cooking oil
Place the casserole over medium high heat and melt the butter with the oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. When the foam from the butter is all but gone, add the chicken pieces, skin side down, in one layer (do not overcrowd!). When the first side has turned a nice golden color (in 2-3 minutes), turn the pieces over to brown the other side. Do not let the fat overheat.
Fresh herbs (note: Julia was very conservative with the amount of herbs she suggested—I was much more liberal, especially since they came from my own pot of herbs)
2-3 Tblsp butter
If the fat in the pan is too dark, pour it out and add the fresh butter. Mix in the herbs, then place the chicken in the pan and baste it with the herbed butter. Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium. Baste and turn the chicken a few times, until it is done (10-15 min for white meat). Remove to a heated platter and cover while you finish the sauce.
1 Tblsp minced shallot or green onion
1/2 cup chicken broth (Julia said canned; I use what comes in a box these days, which is available in a low-sodium form)
1-2 Tblsp softened butter
Minced herbs if you want
Remove all but 2-3 Tblsp of the fat from the casserole. Add the shallots or onions and cook slowly for a minute. Pour in the wine and allow the alcohol in it to boil off. Add the chicken stock. Raise the heat and boil, scraping up any juices and scraps in the pan—you should have about 1/3 cup when you’re done. Taste for seasoning.
When you’re ready to serve, swirl in the last of butter and more fresh herbs. Arrange the chicken on a platter or individual plates and pour the sauce over the pieces.
Julia suggested serving this with some form of potatoes, but I usually serve chicken with rice, which is simpler to cook. Add something green (a summer salad, for instance) and voila! Le dîner est servi!
Thank you, Le Creuset!