The beauty of regional foods and a little imagination is that you can be transported to other lands simply by embracing the dining experience. Would you like to fly off to Normandy France? Place Poulet Normandie (Chicken Normandy) on your menu planner. Imagine whole chicken legs braised with onions, apples and brandy or cognac. I promise you, this dish is so unbelievable good – only the strongest of self control will keep you from licking the plates!
France is a large country, divided into several regions. While some dishes are accepted as part of the national identity, others are uniquely regional. The Normandy cuisine of France’s northwest is a reflection of abundant farms, orchards and 400 miles of coastline. The food here is simple, yet rich. The farmers produce prized ducks and poultry. Orchards abound, in particular apples. There are 800 different varieties of apples grown in Normandy. Apple Brandy, Calvados, and apple cider are all featured in the cuisine of this beautiful region. With lush grasslands, cheeses, creams and butters are also a part of the cooking. Poulet à la Normande is a reflection of many of the things Normandy does so well.
This recipe for Chicken Normandy is adapted from simplyrecipes.com – with a few modifications. For one thing, the original recipe calls for Brandy. My darling husband was in charge of checking the grocery list; he “thought” we had brandy – we did not. So I used cognac – and it was wonderful.
Poulet à la Normande – Chicken Normandy
4 tablespoons butter
2 cooking apples (Fuji are perfect for this dish), peeled, cored and sliced into wedges
Flour for dredging (about 1/4 cup)
4 Chicken Quarters (dark meat – leg & thigh)
Kosher Salt to taste
1 large onion, peeled, sliced lengthwise (root to top) into wedges
1/2 cup brandy (Apple Brandy or Calvados if you have it . . . Cognac works well, too)
2 cups apple cider (the cloudy type)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
Sprinkle salt over the chicken pieces and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large, oven-proof sauté pan over medium heat. Add the apple slices and sauté until they turn a little brown around the edges, turning occasionally. Sprinkle the apple slices with a little salt. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
Dredge the chicken in flour and place the pieces in the sauté pan, skin side down. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter. Fry until golden, about 5 minutes on medium to medium-high heat on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the onions and increase the heat to medium-high. Spread the onion slices out in an even layer to cover the pan. As the onions cook they will release moisture that will help deglaze the pan of the browned bits from the chicken. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until they just being to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the brandy to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any remaining browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Let the brandy boil until it has reduced by about half. Add the cider and bring it to a boil.
Sprinkle in the thyme. Add just a pinch of salt to the cider. Arrange the chicken legs in the pan so the skin faces up and is not submerged by the cider-brandy mixture. Place in the oven and cook, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees. Remove the pan from the oven. (Watch out for the hot handle!) Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and transfer to a platter. Place chicken back into oven uncovered while you finish the sauce.
Place the pan back on a stove-top burner on high heat. Add the apples and sprinkle with thyme. Allow sauce to boil down until it’s reduced by half. The sauce will begin to thicken slightly, almost syrupy.
Cook another 5 minutes on high, then lower heat and add the heavy cream. Stir until well blended.
To serve, divide the apples and onions with the a little sauce on individual plates, top with a piece of quarter chicken piece. Pour any remaining sauce into a gravy boat and pass at table-side.