One of the cookbooks he brought to my kitchen is called French Cooking for Beginners, by Helene Siegel. I love what she writes in her introduction:
"Everyday French cooking is no more complicated or costly than any other style of cooking...French cooking means bringing an attitude of caring and respect as well as technique into the kitchen...At it's best, it is cooking with the heart as well as the hands, and it needn't be haute to be so...When all is said and done, food, along with wine, is meant to be savored slowly and enjoyed with friends graciously--not worried to death. To the French it is natural to care passionately about what they eat and how they eat it. It is a way of life."A recipe I've made many times from her book is this Chicken in the Pot with Winter Vegetables (her variation of poule au pot, from southwestern France). It is incredibly easy to make, and has a fantastic, delicate flavor. I've made this with chicken breast and thighs, and also just thighs. Both are equally as good, so just use the kind of meat you like best. She has you leave the skin on while cooking and then remove it for serving. This is also up to you. I like to leave the skin on half of my chicken pieces and then remove it after cooking. I think the skin adds a bit of extra flavor, but it does add some fat to the broth (not necessarily a bad thing). I've found that leaving the skin on half the chicken is a good compromise.
Helene also has you leave the chicken pieces whole for serving (place the piece of chicken on top of the vegetables in your bowl and ladle the broth over the top). I did this the first time--and it was a lovely presentation--but it was tricky to eat the chicken, so since then I've always removed the meat from the bone, shredded it, and returned it to the pot. This does make it more of a soup, and further away from the true French poule au pot, but cooking is all about adapting recipes to suit your needs and style. Yes?
Chicken in the Pot with Winter Vegetables (adapted from French Cooking for Beginners)
1 large turnip, trimmed and peeled
3 carrots, trimmed and scraped
2 celery ribs, trimmed
1 small onion, trimmed
1 bay leaf
2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, breasts, or combination of both, skin removed if desired
1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon
2 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 32-oz carton chicken broth (4 cups)
1 cup dry white wine
1. Cut all the vegetables into sticks, about 2- by 1/2-inchs, and mix them together in a bowl.
2. Put half of the vegetables in the bottom of a medium pot. Top with the bay leaf and then the chicken pieces, skin-side up. Put the remaining vegetables on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with the tarragon, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper. Pour in the chicken broth and white wine.
3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Remove the chicken to a bowl and keep warm. Remove the bay leaf and whole cloves and discard. Remove the meat from the bones, shred it, and return it to the pot. Heat it through and serve.
Makes 4 generous servings.