Poulet Gourmand, or What to Do in Winter When You're Bored and Hungry
Winter finally came to Lyon. It's been too cold and windy to do much outside, and one can only amuse oneself for so long looking out the window and making fun of people who refuse to buy hats and gloves for the ten days a year that the temperature stays below freezing. What to do?
Cook warm, delicious, fattening things! Duh.
Poulet gourmand is an extremely vague name for a thousand different ways to prepare chicken. A poulet is a young chicken (3-10 months old) slaughtered in its tender prime, before its flesh becomes tough and it needs to be processed into Chicken McNuggets. A gourmand is someone who likes to eat decadently-prepared poulet, among other things.
(In truth, gourmand is a notoriously difficult word to translate, at least when applied to human consumption: as an adjective it's somewhere in between "someone with more than a casual interest in quality eating and drinking" and "glutton"; as a noun its a person exhibiting such tendencies.)
So anyway, what must one do to tender young chicken flesh in order to justify such nomenclature? As mentioned there are a lot of variants, but this is what we call poulet gourmand in our house:
1) Find yourself four chicken legs, preferably from a single, four-legged chicken. Even if such animals aren't available in your region, the most important thing is that you use meat from real farm chickens who knew the fresh crack of grains in their still-intact beaks during their short lives; sawdust-fed factory chickens who never saw the sky don't do justice to this dish. Or the word chicken, for that matter.
2) Slice up an onion or two into rondelles (i.e. round slices, maybe 3-5mm thick), just enough to line the bottom of an oven-safe baking dish.
3) Get out the chicken legs and slather them on all sides with mustard. We use dijon mustard (the city of Dijon is, after all, just up the road from here), but I'm sure it would be tasty with American or English mustard as well. Salt and pepper the now-sticky legs.
4) Wrap up the thighs in strips of raw bacon and spread them out on top of the onions. That's right, bacon-wrapped chicken. Yeah.
5) Bake at 180C (about 350F) for 45 minutes. During this time, you can prepare whatever you want (if anything) to accompany the dish: as you can see we used chanterelles here, but we've also done it with pasta, leeks, celery... there's no limit to what might work (and please leave me a comment if you discover something yummy).
Dish after 45 minutes in the oven and after adding cream (see step six):
Dish ready to receive chanterelles and finish cooking:
NOTE: This is the step at which the dish is most likely to resemble Jesus. If this occurs: order a pizza, sell the dish on eBay and retire to the Bahamas.
6) Take the dish out of the oven, add fresh cream (at least enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and whatever secret ingredient you cooked up in step five. The amount of cream necessary will depend largely on what you add...and how much you like bacon fat-infused cream.
7) Cook for another 10-15 minutes and you're done! The finished product ought to look something like this:
For serving (with whatever wine you want, by the way: cream + bacon + chicken + mustard = wine-matching comedy): while it's true that all the food groups are pretty well represented here, it does go well with pasta (either baked in or served separately) and it is, of course, the perfect lead-up to a good cheese plate...
...or you could just eat a plateful and call it a day! I mean, how much cholesterol does one really need to ingest in a day?