This is one of our founder’s favorite dishes. In her words, “My friends call this Poached Chicken Pot au Feu “Miracle Chicken!” It’s one of my favorite things to eat when I feel tired... or run down. It was a lifesaver during chemo. It is basically nourishing, low-fat, invalid food but it is easy to make and amazingly tasty. The trick is to poach the dish slowly. I use chicken on the bone for extra flavor, but you can use boneless for less mess. If you don’t like rice, you can substitute 3-4 small, halved, waxy potatoes instead and add them along with the root vegetables. If leeks aren’t available, substitute two small celery branches cut into sticks. If you want to make the dish a little more elegant, cook the rice in a separate pot, with the same timing and method as below, with 2¾ cups of stock ladled from the chicken for a risotto-like side dish.”
Stud each onion half with two cloves. Cut the white part of the trimmed leeks into three equal lengths, then in half lengthwise. Set aside. Cut the tender parts of the dark tops of the leeks into 3-inch lengths and tie them together with a piece of string.
Put the chicken into a heavy Dutch oven or casserole dish. Cover with water, and bring to a boil over a high flame. As soon as the chicken flesh turns white, remove and set aside on a plate. Discard the water.
Rinse the pot. Put in carrots, turnips, bay leaf, peppercorns, bundled leek greens and onions. Reserve the leek whites. Add enough stock or water to cover the vegetables completely, bring to a boil over a high heat. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Gently simmer the vegetables for 10 minutes.
Add the chicken to the simmering vegetables and top with the reserved leeks. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and cover. Cook at a simmer over very low heat for about 20 minutes. The chicken should be just cooked and the vegetables tender but not mushy. Check for salt. Add the measured rice directly to the pot, cover and cook at a low simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is al dente. Turn off the heat and let the pot sit, covered, for 10 minutes for the rice to steam and the flavors to develop.
To serve, remove the bundled leek greens and discard. Cut the chicken pieces in half. Plate the chicken with half an onion and some carrots, turnips, leek whites, and rice. Spoon stock from the pot over the chicken and vegetables. Serve with Dijon mustard on the side.
You can use a mix of skinless breasts and thighs for more flavor.
This dish can also be made with a whole 31/2 -4 lb chicken. Just add it back into the pot with the vegetables in step 3 as it will need to cook longer.
Never be afraid to ask the butcher in your local supermarket to skin a whole chicken for you, even if you’ve picked it up off the shelf. They’re there to help you, and it beats doing it yourself.