Normandy is a region known for several things: cows and amazing farm-fresh butter and cream, beautiful cliff-lined coasts, the D-day beaches, Camembert, Livarot, Neufchâtel and Pont l’Evêque cheese, and of course, all things apple: Calvados (an apple Brandy made in the sub-region of the same name), hard cider and Pommeau (an apple liqueur), to name a few. Imagine a recipe that combines several of these gems into one succulent dish and you’ve got the Poulet Vallée d’Auge, which just means chicken from Vallée d’Auge, a small sub-region in Lower Normandy. It’s just as rich as you might expect, but the tart and sweet apples cut right through all of that richness, bringing balance and amazing sweet and savory notes.
Poulet Vallée d’Auge
Recipe from Bon Appétit
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small chicken (small enough to fit in your dutch oven!)
Salt and pepper
2 shallots, finely diced
1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
3/4 cup apple cider
Thyme and bay leaves
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups button mushrooms
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1 egg yolk
Even though it means more dishes to wash, I prefer cooking the apples and mushrooms in a separate pan so they get nice and caramelized (for the apples) and browned (the mushrooms). So, heat about 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Once it’s hot and melted, add your peeled and cored apples, cut into quarters. Resist the temptation to touch them, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar and a pinch of salt. Let them cook undisturbed for 4-6 minutes before turning them, and finish cooking until browned on all sides. Set aside.
Add two more tablespoons of butter to the same pan and increase heat to medium-high. Quarter your mushrooms and add them to the hot pan. As with the apples, don’t fuss with them too much, just let them brown. Once they’re browned on all sides, set aside with the apples.
Preheat your oven to about 375°. Now add the oil and remaining 1 tablespoon butter to a dutch oven over high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Let the chicken cook untouched for 6-8 minutes, until golden brown, and continue turning and cooking it until it’s golden all over.
Remove the chicken and add your shallots. Cook them for a couple of minutes until they soften. Remove from heat and add the Calvados. Flambé! Carefully, of course. Once the flames die down, add the cider and let the sauce reduce slightly.
Now you can add your chicken along with the broth. Cover and place in the oven for about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken. Once it’s cooked, remove from the oven and place on the stovetop. Add your reserved apples and mushrooms and heat through. Whisk the crème fraîche and egg yolk together, then add to the sauce, mixing gently to incorporate. Serve immediately!