Poached free-range chicken with nettles
Down the small hillock of our village, along the bed of the river “l’Hers vive”, lies a former textile mill that has turned into a ruin. In fact, only the walls are standing. Just in front, there is a small house where a young French couple and their two daughters are living and keeping poultry for eggs and meat.
Their chickens are the poster girls for “free range” and they do not come lighter than two kilos. So, when we do buy one of her birds on a Friday, we have a lot of chicken. Too much for a quick roast. Fine for a family or with guests. For the two of us, it means several meals.
Oven-roasting a whole large bird is a technical challenge because the breasts are ready long before the legs. Covering the breast with aluminum foil or lard is a way out if this problem.
Another way to keep the meat juicy while well-done is poaching – cooking in a liquid close to 100 °C. At a higher temperature you would be boiling the chicken for stock but with poaching you want the flavour to be in the chicken, not the liquid.
I cut up some onion, carrot and celery for the stock and added a few handfuls of dried nettles that have a good effect on blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. It tastes a bit like spinach.
I lowered the chicken in the liquid so that it was underneath the surface (sometimes you need to push the chicken down by putting a plate on top) and cooked for an hour.
Shortly before serving the chicken for the first time, I put it in an oven heated at 200 °C for five minutes to colour the bird a bit.