Poulet à la Normande
This simple, classic braise from northern France brings together the fall flavors of sweet apples, yeasty cider, cream and chicken. The only trick is flambéing the Calvados or brandy, which gives it a toasty flavor — it’s literally playing with fire, so if you’d prefer not to do that, you can stay safe and get very similar results by pouring the liquor in off-heat, and gently simmering it to evaporate the alcohol.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 4-4 pound chicken, cut into 8 bone-in pieces
- Salt and black pepper
- 3tablespoons olive oil, duck fat or chicken fat
- ½cup Calvados or cognac
- 1 ¼cups hard cider, preferably a yeasty French one
- 15pearl onions, peeled (frozen is fine)
- 1 ½pounds honeycrisp apples, or any variety that doesn’t melt when cooked
- 2tablespoons cornstarch
- 5tablespoons crème fraîche (see note)
Step 1Pat the chicken very dry with paper towels, and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the fat in a large Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, skin side down until deep golden, 6 to 8 minutes, then flip, and sear the other side until golden, another 3 minutes.
Step 2If flambéing: Make sure there is nothing flammable near or above your stove. Gently warm the Calvados in a saucepan over medium heat. When the chicken is well browned, protect your hand, and use a long kitchen match to light the liquor on fire, then carefully pour it into the chicken pan. The flame can shoot over 2 feet high, so be careful. Cook until the flame subsides. If not flambéing: Once the chicken is browned, turn off the heat, and add the Calvados. When the sizzling subsides, turn the heat on to medium low, bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes to evaporate the alcohol.
Step 3Add the cider and onions, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer. Quickly peel and core the apples, and cut them into 1 1/2-inch chunks, and place them on top of the chicken. Cover the pan, and cook, checking occasionally to ensure the liquid is maintaining a gentle simmer, not boiling, until the chicken is just cooked through, 35-40 minutes.
Step 4Remove the chicken, onions and apples to a platter, and cover. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of cold water. Stir this into the braising liquid, and bring to a simmer for 1 minute, until thickened. Stir in the crème fraîche, and season the sauce with salt to taste, replace the chicken, onions and apples in the sauce and serve with crusty bread and a salad.