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Chicken Clemençeau

Chicken Clemençeau
Imagine a businessman's lunch served at a grand Creole restaurant in the 1940s. It might feature chicken Clemençeau, a rich and meaty dish with a Frenchified flourish of wine and mushrooms that is balanced by a no-nonsense base of home fries and green peas. At once glamorous and homey, the nostalgic sauté is still on the menu at many old-line dining rooms in New Orleans, an enduring favorite that deserves to be revisited. Authenticity requires using a young fowl known as a poussin or a spring chicken, but it is fine to substitute a small fryer or even boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Serve this dish with a full-bodied Chardonnay.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small young chicken, about 2 lb., quartered
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • Canola oil for deep-frying
  • 1 large russet potato, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 lb. fresh white mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • 2 green onions, including tender green portions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups small green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 200°F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Working in batches if needed to avoid crowding, add the chicken, skin side down, and cook until the skin is browned, about 10 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 10 minutes more. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter and keep warm in the oven.

Meanwhile, pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a deep, heavy saucepan or a deep fryer and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Add the potato and fry until tender and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

After the chicken is in the oven, return the fry pan to medium heat, add the garlic, mushrooms and green onions to the drippings, and sauté until the mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Add the peas and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the fried potatoes and stir and toss just until heated through.

Taste and adjust the seasonings. Divide the chicken pieces among warmed plates and spoon the vegetables and sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, New Orleans, by Constance Snow (Oxmoor House, 2005).