As with all classics, nobody can on agree what’s in and what’s out. We made the following judgement calls:
The Bird: We used a 100 day old cockerel. Great if you can get it (Ginger Pig regularly has them if you’re in London). If you can’t get old cock use the best chicken available. This dish comes out of a rural French question – “what am I going to do with this scrawny old bird?”. But actually the cockerel makes the dish, not least because if its age. The bones have had long enough to develop, giving the sauce flavour and body. The meat is tougher so demands longer, slower cooking, but the flavour is incomparable.
Breast or Legs (or rather both): We used a whole bird because we managed to get our hands on a cockerel. In an ideal world we’d use just thighs and drumsticks.
The Liquid: Often it’s just cooked in wine. We used a combination of wine and cockerel stock. The stock adds another layer of meatiness. The wine needs to be French. We chose Beaujolais.
To Marinade? Given our tough old cock…. Yes we did, overnight.
The Veg: Onions are a given. We also wanted celery, carrot and (perhaps controversially) garlic.
1.25 bottles of Beaujolais
Additional, celery, carrot, onion
Cloves – 4
Black pepper corns – 20
Unsmoked bacon lardons
Prep the Cockerel
Joint the bird (separate leg & thigh, then cut entire crown on bone into 3)
The marinade is: 1bottle of Beaujolais, carrot, celery onion, bay, thyme, 4 cloves, peppercorns, parsley stalks.
All the jointed cockerel pieces go into the marinade. An airtight lunch box is perfect. You can give it a good shoogle, to ensure proper coverage, without a raw meat juice disaster (and enjoy the visual treat every time you open the fridge door).
Leave in the marinade overnight.
Add the chicken stock and a heaped tea spoon of redcurrent jelly.
Continue boiling to reduce, skimming as you go until you have about 750 ml.
Heat butter and olive oil (we used butter and goose fat, but that’s just greedy). Fry lardons until just golden, then remove them.
Then deglaze the stickings on the bottom of the pan with some of the 0.25 Beaujolais and 100 mls of cognac, reduce and add to the wine stock mixture and set aside till later.
Add onion to olive oil on a medium heat for 5 mins. Then celery and carrot and fry gently. Then add garlic and fry until every thing is getting a bit sticky. Add heaped table spoon of flour. Stir in well.
Next add back the lardons and cockerel (if using chicken not an old bird, keep the breast aside and add for only half the cooking time. An old bird’s breasts need longer.).
Now add the wine/stock mixture. Simmer gently.
Cooking time depends entirely on the sort of bird you are using. You’re looking for tenderness without the meat falling from the bones.
Roughly speaking an organic supermarket chicken may need 50 mins, an old cock 2 hours. Just keep an eye on it. This dish does benefit from a day or so in the fridge before serving but not essential.
Onion & Mushrooms
Blanche the whole onions for 2 mins, peel, then fry off in butter to give some colour, add some water and braise until tender.
Fry mushrooms in butter until the are golden. Add both to casserole just before serving to keep the colour.
We served with:
Crispy fried bread triangles (we fried in goose fat)
Boiled and bashed potatoes with spring onions and butter.
Braised courgette, peas and little gem lettuce. Braise all three briefly butter, season & serve.