Poule au pot is one of the most well known and simplest French country recipes. It is nothing more than a boiling hen simmered for hours with root vegetables and some herbs but it was made famous by King Henry IV, known as le bon roi Henri, announcing that he wanted every labourer in his kingdom to be able to have poule au pot on Sundays. I make it with a chicken from my local poultry producer and vegetables from my local organic market gardeners.
A 1.5 kg boiling hen or chicken, with or without giblets
3 litres chicken stock
2 shallots, peeled and halved
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of majoram or oregano
2 sprigs of lemon thyme
A bay leaf
2 carrots, cut in half
A leek, thickly sliced
Half a celeriac, peeled and diced
1/2 a green cabbage, shredded
A cup of peas
- Put the chicken in a boiler and pour in the stock. If the chicken is not covered add some water.
- Add the shallots, garlic, herbs, carrots, leek and celeriac and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for 2 hours until the chicken is falling apart.
- Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Season to taste.
- Serve in bowls with chunks of chicken, vegetables and a couple of ladles full of stock and some pieces of crusty bread.
A truly traditional poule au pot would have turnips as well as carrots so you can add them if you like them. The traditional dish would not have peas and cabbage added at the end either. For something more in keeping with the simple peasant origins of this dish you could add white dried beans along with the carrots and leek. This isn't a classic addition, but is a variation I'm sure appeared quite regularly on people's tables. In season, broccoli rabe added at the end would be nice too.