My discovery of Poulet Vallée D’Auge was a complete accident. We were planning a trip to Normandy (which we postponed) and I was doing my usual pre-trip research when I came across this recipe by complete chance. The recipe takes its name from a region in Normandy which is best known for its apples and apple brandy – Calvados.
The Poulet Vallée D’Auge recipe traditionally hails from the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy – a region famous for its apples, Calvados and its cuisine. Poulet Vallée D’Auge is primarily served as a Sunday dish or as part of a celebratory dinner – so it’s a good alternative to Sunday dinner or for a special occasion. There are multiple incarnations of the dish – and the original generally uses a roux and self made stock as well as a full chicken which is broken into pieces and a few more vegetables such as carrots, leaks and mushrooms. I’m trying to keep things simple for my recipe so I’ve broken it down to the bare essentials – which I think makes for a slightly lighter, much less rustic though equally tasty version.
Some Tips Before You Start
In remembrance of the late great Keith Floyd I always try to cook with a glass of wine in hand – I suggest you do the same.
- When choosing your crème fraîche I suggest you attempt to find a crème fraîche d’Isigny AOC (France’s only cream which is protected by an Appellation d’Origine Controle). It’s the creamiest and most beautiful tasting crème fraîche that I have ever tasted. It is made from only the finest milks and is guaranteed not to contain any additives or colouring and it undergoes regular taste checks as well as routine laboratory tests to ensure its smooth texture and full flavour. If you’re in England then search out the Reflets de France version which is lovely.
- When it comes to selecting your chicken – I really actually prefer this recipe with chicken breast fillets with the skin left on – but as that’s an impossible combination here in Annecy – I’ve favoured making it with Label Rouge chicken thighs – or go for the traditional method – which includes breaking up an entire chicken!
- Don’t substitute the Calvados – it’s a beautiful take on brandy and adds so much to the recipe…this is after all a recipe all about Normandy – so apples and Calvados are the main stay. However if you really have to then use either normal brandy or try it with sherry, which goes surprisingly well.
- Many recipes call for cider in place of or alongside the chicken stock. It tastes great but I prefer it without during the colder months. If you’re going to use it then I suggest going half and half – 60ml of Chicken Stock and 60ml of cider, and where possible use French cider – which is less bubbly and more suited to cooking.
- When you flambé the Calvados – be sure to work in small batches as the flames will engulf the pan otherwise. If you’re not very confident then use a long reach lighter or long matches – which keep your arm and hand at a safe distance.
Ingredients (makes 2):
- 2 good sized crisp eating apples – I suggest either Royal Gala, Pink Lady or Cox.
- 60g butter
- 2 large shallots (finely chopped)
- 2 big good quality chicken thighs OR 2 breast fillets, with skin on!
- 6 tbsp Calvados
- 120ml chicken stock
- 150ml crème fraîche (preferably full fat crème fraîche d’Isigny AOC)
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- A bunch of fresh parsley
- Salt & pepper to season
1. Quarter and core the apples and cut into small pieces. Afterwards add half the butter (approx 30g) into a frying pan (one that you can add a lid to later), and heat the butter until it begins to foam, then throw in the apples. Fry like this for 7-10 minutes, turning often, until the apples are golden brown all over and tender when prodded with a knife. Lift them out and set them aside for later.
2. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan and fry the chopped shallots for a couple of minutes. Move them to the sides of the pan so they don’t start to burn (you can pile them a little) , then put the chicken in the centre of the pan, skin side down. Cook like this for around 3-4 minutes or until nicely browned, then turn it over and cook in the same way for another 3-4 minutes.
3. Take a small sauce pan and heat about one third of the calvados. Remove it from the heat and set light to it with either a match of a long reach lighter – wait for the flame to die down a little, and then pour it over the chicken in the pan, stirring to burn off the fat. Repeat in this fashion until all the calvados is in the pan.
4. Next – pour in the stock and season with a good grinding of pepper and a pinch of salt. Cover the pan and simmer very gently for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and tender. When it’s ready lift the chicken on to a board or plate and set aside to rest.
5. Here comes the fun bit – uncover the pan and vigorously bubble the remaining juices for a couple of minutes, to reduce, then stir in the apples and all of the crème fraîche and keep the pan on a low heat – mixing the remaining juices and the crème fraîche so the apples are coated.
6. Add a sprinkle of parsley to the pan and mix it up a little.
7. Check the seasoning of the sauce – add more pepper/ salt if needed and spike with a touch of lemon juice.
8. Finally arrange the chicken on two plates and spoon the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle each serving with parsley, pepper the dish and eat.
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