Chicken Pot-au-Feu

Israel Aharoni

1½ hours

4-6 servings

Chicken Pot-au-feu
Illustration: Rotem Biksenspaner

“Unfortunately, we have all encountered the blandness of boiled chicken,” smiles chef Israel Aharoni. “I want to return [it] back to its former glory,” he says as he explains his choice to prepare this particular dish inspired by Amos Keinan’s “Book of Pleasures.”

When the book came out in the 1970s, not only did it present the complete opposite approach to the austerity era of Israel’s early days, but also introduced us to unfamiliar recipes from foreign cuisines, like French and Italian. “It [also] contained recipes that back then, and even to this day, are almost science fiction. I did not want to choose a recipe that was too bizarre, so I chose this one.”

The name of the dish is inspired by the French beef stew that appears in the book, but the technique that Aharoni uses was imported from China. “The Chinese cook chicken perfectly. They have a stunning dish called Chicken Rice, in which they cook the rice with the chicken fat, place a boiled chicken on top and pour a hot and spicy oil over it. I combined this technique with the pot-au-feu and it turned out fantastic,” he says. “I wanted to demonstrate that you can make boiled chicken that is not bland and dry, but rather juicy and delicious. A dish that is taken from the book but is relevant to today’s lifestyle.”

The spicy earthy turnips in this recipe infuse the soup with a rich spicy flavor, and it softens the poached chicken meat while keeping it juicy. For best results use a medium-sized organic chicken.

Read more about the “Book of Pleasures” on the Asif Journal.

Ingredients

  • For the soup:
  • 1 fresh whole organic chicken weighing 3.3 – 4.4 lb / 1½ -2 kg, cleaned
  • 1 whole garlic head, halved crosswise
  • 2 onions, cut into 6 wedges each
  • 3 small turnips, peeled and cut into 4 slices each
  • 4 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into 2-inch / 5-cm pieces
  • 1 celeriac, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6 slices
  • 3 leek stalks (only the white part), cut into 2-inch / 5-cm pieces
  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cardamom pods, slightly crushed with a pestle & mortar
  • 5 thyme stems
  • 1 sage stem
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 cups water
  • For the herb paste:
  • ½ bunch coriander, soft stems and leaves only
  • ½ cup mint, soft stems and leaves only
  • 1 green hot chili pepper, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic confit (available in delis and online)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About ⅓ cup olive oil
  • To serve:
  • White bread
  • Good mustard
  • Horseradish spread
  • Pickled cucumbers

Preparation

  1. Fill a pot large enough for the chicken to fit with water to half its height. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and poach in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain the chicken and set aside.
  2. Clean the pot and add all the ingredients for the soup except for the chicken. Bring to a boil. 
  3. Return the chicken in the pot, breast side facing up, and bring to a second boil. Reduce to a low heat, cover and cook over a gentle simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for 30 minutes, during which the chicken will continue to cook in the hot soup.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the herb paste: Pulse all the ingredients except for the olive oil in the food processor, to a coarse and slightly crumbly paste. Transfer to a bowl. 
  5. Heat the olive oil in a small pot or in the microwave until hot but not boiling. Pour over the herb paste and mix well.
  6. Transfer the chicken from the soup to a large serving plate and arrange the vegetables around it. Pour the herb paste over the chicken. Strain the soup, reheat it if necessary and serve in a separate bowl. 
  7. Serve with white bread, mustard, horseradish spread, pickles and a bottle of good white wine.

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