In December 2002, S and I took a very belated honeymoon to Paris. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of a friend, we spent half of our trip staying at the George V Four Seasons hotel, easily one of the most magnificent hotels in the world. One of the many highlights of our stay was eating not once but twice at Le Cinq. At the time, Le Cinq had not earned its third Michelin star (that would be announced just weeks after our stay), but as far as we were concerned, we could not have had better food, wine or service. On our first visit, one dish on the menu in particular jumped out at both of us, but as it was a main course for two, the maître d’hôtel recommended that on this, our first visit, we have different mains in order to try more things. The meal, of course, was amazing. But we still wanted to try that dish, so we begged our way into a table just 2 nights later and this time we ordered Philippe Legendre’s Poulette de Bresse et homard George V en cocotte lutée (young Bresse chicken and lobster cooked in a casserole pot).
It was delicious. Truly revelatory. And upon returning home, I became slightly obsessed with cooking chickens “en cocotte”. I couldn’t find a recipe for chicken and lobster en cocotte but I did find many for just chicken. We also didn’t own a cocotte large enough to house both a chicken and a lobster. Plus, I felt that lobsters were a little too expensive to waste when I wasn’t 100% sure of the recipe. So, I stuck to chickens, but after a few weeks, I moved onto other obsessions.
Fast forward to 2005 and S’s brand spanking new and–until this past weekend–unused 41cm Staub cocotte. Ever since S had picked up this enameled cast iron beauty, we’ve been waiting for just the right opportunity and recipe to christen it with. Enter from stage left: a pair of generous in-laws who had just gone on a mad lobster spending spree and who gave two of them to us. We had the right pot; we had lobsters. All I needed was a chicken and a prayer. And, of course, a recipe… which, I admit, I kind of made up as I cooked.
We invited the well-fed W and J of Kuidaore to join us. Fortunately, the dish came out perfectly (I shudder to think of serving a less than perfect meal to W and J). The chicken was super-moist and the lobster surprisingly tender. The sauce, made with the chicken and lobster juices, was both sweet and savory and lifted the dish well. I couldn’t have been happier with the results. Especially since I was sweating with worry for the whole hour that the cocotte was in the oven.
Chicken and lobsters en cocotte, feeds 4 generously
1 large chicken
2 small-medium size lobsters
3 large onions, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
12 cloves garlic
1/2 white wine or Champagne
1/4 cup cream
1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat your oven to 120ºC. Clean, salt and truss your chicken. Heat a tablespoon of butter with the olive oil in a large cocotte. Sauté the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic together, stirring occasionally. When the onions are soft, pour in the wine and reduce for 5 minutes. Then place your chicken carefully in the cocotte, over the aromatics. Place your lobsters around the chicken, one on each side. Cover and put the cocotte in the oven for 1 hour.
After an hour, remove from the oven, open the cover, take out the chicken and let it stand for 10 minutes. While it stands, take out the lobsters, pulling the tails off, slicing them down the middle and carefully removing the meat. Then strain the liquid from the cocotte into a sauce pan, add a knob of butter and the cream (salt to taste) and reduce for 5-10 minutes. While the sauce is reducing, remove the breasts (2 portions) and both thighs and plate with the lobster meat. Pour as much or as little of the hot sauce over your chicken and lobster.