Poulet, Frites et Compote

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Here is a Belgian classic comfort food: Chicken, frites (fries) and apple sauce.

This was a staple for me growing up.

This was the treat every Wednesday coming home for lunch, usually having worked up an appetite from the weekly swim lessons at primary school.

As shown also by the Flemish stew (soon to follow), Belgians quite like to mix sweet and savoury.

It seems we share this with the German and some Central-European cooking traditions. Maybe it is a heritage inherited from our long common history under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire.

From our experience the French (south of the Nord-Pas de Calais anyway), usually put their nose up at the very idea of serving the apple sauce with the chicken and frites.

In the Hexagon, apple sauce is considered a dessert or snack. The mix of sweet and savoury is only allowed with game and a few notable exceptions.

Personally, I find the contrast between the savoury chicken, salty frites and the cinnamon-y apple sauce simply divine.

This dish brings us Belgians (and people from Nord-Pas de Calais) nothing other than utmost joy and comfort.

As stated in the title, this recipe involves 3 simple things: Frites, roast chicken and appel sauce.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3 people)

The chicken

  • 1  medium chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 or 3 Rosemary or thyme sprigs
  • 100 gr of butter
  • 1 or 2 onions

The apple sauce.

  • 5 medium sized apples
  •  ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 tbsps. Sugar

Finally the frites which Mr J. will explain how to prepare properly.

  • 1 kg of big Maris Piper potatoes (Belgians do it with the famous Bintje but Maris Piper do a great job)
  •  Vegetable oil and fryer

Roast Chicken.

  1. Heat the oven on 200° C.
  2. Cut the lemon in half and stuff it in the cavity of the chicken along with the rosemary or thyme sprigs. This will infuse the chicken and flavour the meat juices.
  3. Season generously the chicken with salt and pepper and rub in the skin. Cut the firm butter in slivers and place on top of the breasts and thighs. Place it in a roasting tin along with a 2 onions cut in half.
  4. Put it in the oven for half hour on the high heat. And reduce to 180° C for another 45min of cooking.
  5. Once done take the chicken out of the oven and leave to rest for 5min. Before transferring the chicken on a carving board, make sure to drain all the juices from the cavity into the roasting tin and discard the lemon half’s. The lemon juice will break up the fatty meat juices of the chicken and make delicious gravy along with the caramelized onions.
  6. Return the cut up chicken pieces in the gravy of the roasting tin. You are ready to serve!

The Apple Sauce.

You can use any variety of apples. The floury and sweet ones tend to be better for it though, but I don’t use the cooking kind since they tend to have less flavour and are very tart. You will note that I am not adding a lot of cinnamon as it can be quickly overpowering. We just want a hint of it to elevate the flavour of the apples.

  1. Peel and cut the apples in small cubes
  2. Place in a saucepan along with 1cm of water as to prevent burning before the apples release their juices.
  3. Cover and cook on a medium heat until the apples begins to break down.
  4. Add the sugar (please taste, some apple varieties need more or less sugar) along with the cinnamon.
  5. Cook a little longer while stirring regularly until all the liquid seems to be gone and the apple sauce begins to slightly stick to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Take of the heat and leave to cool or serve.

The Frites. (by Mr J.)

In our “frozen pre-cut fries bag” age the art of decent frites has been forgotten by many cooks even professional ones.

It is not something complicated but it requires going with care through a few simple steps.

You can even to a good part of the work in advance. You can store your own pre-cooked homemade frites and keep them ready to cook when after a hard day of work.

Actually they even taste better. I have fond memories of my grandmother handing boxes of such pre-cooked to my mother.

  1. Peel and cut the potatoes. Manage to make sticks as long as possible and roughly as thick as your little finger.
  2. As you cut them, throw your frites in bucket or big pan of cold fresh water. When you have cut all you frites, empty the bucket and rinse again with more fresh water. This will remove the excess of starch.
  3. Drain your frites and wipe dry with a clean towel. It is worth doing this properly as this will help your frites to be properly crispy.

Here is the secret of proper Belgian Frites: double cooking. This is also when you can decide to store your frites. If you want to do so you cook them once and store them in the fridge.

  1. Fry the frites a first time at 180°C in your fryer. Make sure the temperature stays constant. Once they are no longer raw, drain them and transfer to a bowl. Fry the rest of the fries the same way.
  2. Fry the fries a second time on the same heat until they are golden and caramelised . Drain and transfer to a dish lined with kitchen paper towel. And you are ready to serve!

Enjoy!

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