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Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme

Serves 4.

1/2-pound piece bacon

4 tablespoons butter

3-pound roasting chicken, trussed and buttered

15 to 25 peeled white onions (about 1-inch diameter)

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Herb bouquet made with 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in washed cheesecloth

1. Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (strips 1/2 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long). In 2 quarts water, simmer the bacon for 10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and dry. In a fire-proof casserole, saute the bacon for 2 to 3 minutes in 1 tablespoon of the butter until lightly browned. Transfer to a dish.

2. Brown the chicken in the hot fat, breast side down. Brown for 2 minutes, regulating heat so the butter is always very hot but not burning. Turn the chicken on another side using 2 wooden spoons or a towel. Continue browning and turning the chicken until it is a nice golden color almost all over, particularly on the breast and legs. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. Add more oil, if necessary, to keep the bottom of the casserole filmed.

3. Remove the chicken from the pan. Pour the fat out of thecasserole. Set the oven at 325 degrees.

4. Drop the onions into boiling, salted water and boil slowly for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

5. Peel the potatoes and trim them into uniform ovals about 2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain immediately.

6. In the casserole, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter until foaming. Add the potatoes and roll them around over moderate heat for 2 minutes to evaporate their moisture; this will prevent their sticking to the casserole. Spread them in the pan. Salt the chicken and place it breast up in the casserole. Place the bacon and onions on the potatoes and add the herb bouquet. Baste all the ingredients with the butter in the casserole, lay a piece of foil over the chicken, and cover the casserole.

7. Heat the casserole on top of the stove until the contents are sizzling. Transfer to the oven and roast for 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes or until the chicken leg registers 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Baste once or twice with the juices in the pan.

Adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" Volume One

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