I first read about this divinely simple dish in one of the British papers -- must've been the Times on Sunday or the Guardian, who in recent years have amazingly dedicated food sections that now rival long-running food magazines and feature weekly recipes by famous British chefs. This chicken dish with braised peas and lettuce was one of those "easy-peasy" recipes that made my mouth water, because it's so easy to make; while reading the step-by-step I had the whole scenario unfold like a cooking show in my mind, which ended with a fantasy tasting of this dish which I've never eaten before but could easily imagine -- seared chicken leg with sweet petits pois and grassy, crisp lettuce in a slick of creamy, chickeny sauce.
In the Flavour Thesaurus, the Willy Wonka adventure of a book on flavour pairings written by the talented Nicki Segnit, the author also mentions this dish in the "Peas" (or is it "Chicken"?) section; apparently this dish originates from the southwestern suburb of Paris called Clamart, which is famous for their ultra sweet young peas. No matter what its origins, it's a good one-pot dish that looks impressive and is practically impossible to dislike (unless of course you're catering to vegetarians). I've added baby carrots for some sweetness and substance.
It's hard to find truly sweet, tender peas here in China -- what's boldly claimed to be "sweet peas" on the packaging is really just over-sized, disappointingly starchy and tasteless green shot pellets. But it's easy enough to go to a Western supermarket like April Gourmet and find imported peas in the freezer section. And away you go!
Poulet à la Clamart (Chicken with Braised Peas and Lettuce)
- 4 strips of streaky bacon (like Hormel brand)
- 3 large chicken legs, de-boned and each cut into two even halves
- ½ white onion, sliced
- 3 purple shallots, sliced
- 8 baby carrots, scrubbed clean with tops trimmed (leaving 1 cm of green top) and skin peeled 100ml white wine
- 200ml chicken stock
- 6 spring onions, thickly sliced on the diagonal
- 400g frozen sweet peas (for best results use imported frozen petit pois peas, like Bonduelle brand)
- 4 little gem lettuces, or the small insides of 4 romaine lettuces, cut in half lengthwise
- 30mL single cream
- ½ lemon
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large baguette, crusty European-style
- Olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- Fry the bacon in an extra-large frying pan, a large casserole pot (like Le Creuset) or a paella pan, until the fat is released and it starts to brown and crisp a little bit. Set aside on a plate.
- Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the pan and sear the chicken legs skin-side-down on high heat until the skin is browned (about 5 minutes; do not move or flip the chicken); when the skin is almost dark brown, flip the chicken and cook the meat for another 3 minutes; it will still be a bit raw inside but we will continue to cook it later. Transfer the chicken with tongs to the plate of bacon, keeping the chicken juices in the pot. Sprinkle the chicken with some salt and black pepper.
- Tip the onion, shallots and carrots into the pan and sautee 2 minutes. Add the white wine and let it sizzle for another minute or two, then add the chicken stock and juice of half a lemon.
- Use tongs to place the chicken and bacon back into the pot (make sure chicken is skin side up), then then cover and simmer at medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the cover and gently lift the carrots out of the pot (so the pretty carrots are visible). Stir in the cream and sprinkle in the peas, place the gem lettuce halves on top around the pot, spoon some of the chicken soup over the peas and lettuce, put the carrots back on top of the chicken and peas and scatter over half the spring onions. Cover and cook another 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slice the baguette diagonally into 2-3cm thick slices and line it on a baking tray. Brush with olive oil (or carefuly drizzle a thin stream of olive oil evenly over the slices) on both side. Sprinkle with sea salt and then bake at 190*C for about 5 minutes until crispy and golden. Remove from the oven and using your fingers to pinch each garlic clove, rub the garlic onto the toasts to give it some garlic flavor.
- When the chicken and peas are finished cooking, uncover the lid and sprinkle over the rest of the fresh spring onions. Present this pot at the dinner table (place a heat-proof mat under the pot) and serve family style with the toasted garlic bread.