This wonderful Lemon and Herb Stuffed Chicken is one of the recipes I recently found stuffed in a dusty old box of my grandmother’s recipes.
I’ve been painstakingly translated them one-by-one from her handwritten French to modern English.
The French-to-English part has not been as difficult as reading her handwriting.
But the hardest part — and also the most fun part — has been the trial and error of translating her measurements. Her instructions like “trois grandes pincées” and “une petite poignée” have taken a bit of kitchen trial and error. I’m finding her “three big pinches” and just “a small handful” need a bit of tweaking for modern recipe language. Plus, I’m pretty sure her hands were bigger than mine. Who knew?
At any rate, this is my best rendition.
The beauty of this Lemon and Herb Stuffed Chicken recipe is that you can vary it with whatever herbs you happen to have in your garden that particular day. Or whichever dried ones you have in your kitchen. I would suggest keeping to these herbs as much as possible. But don’t let lack of an herb or two stop you if you don’t have all of these exact herbs. Her recipe clearly says “des herbes telles que” — or translated, herbs such as . . .
You will note this recipe calls for fresh herbs rather than dried herbs.
I have always preferred to cook with fresh herbs because (1) I grow them in my garden, (2) so I know they are organically-raised and have no pesticides on them, (3) they are always handy, and (4) I like the way fresh herbs taste better than dried herbs. The other advantage of growing and using your own herbs is that they don’t loose flavor or require re-purchase every year to keep them at optimal taste. And ultimately, of course, growing your own herbs costs less than buying dried ones from a grocer. And the ones that die back each year are easy to dry in your own kitchen and then to simply re-plant next season.
But you certainly can substitute dried herbs for fresh herbs if that’s what you have.
So let’s talk a quick minute about fresh herb to dried herb equivalencies.
The taste and potency of herbs depends on the specific variety of the herb and the time of year it is harvested. That is true whether you use the herb fresh or dried.
When you dry an herb you remove the natural water from it so the taste becomes more concentrated. How much more concentrated depends on the amount of water in each specific herb. So generalizations are just that — generalizations.
Once an herb is snipped from the plant, it begins losing flavor. You can preserve 95% of the flavor for about a week or 10 days if you store the herb in a container of water in your refrigerator. So if you harvest fresh and snip off a bit too much, always save the leftovers in your fridge for another meal.
Dried herbs are concentrated to the point that in general you use about half the amount of dried herb as you do of fresh herb. But dried herbs lose 75-90 percent of their flavor within 12 months of drying them, depending on the herb and the drying method used. So even using the same jar of dried herbs does not give you the same taste in November as it did last February.
However, all the variables aside, the great news about herbs is that they always taste good even if they have a lessened amount of flavor. A little. A lot. All good.
The amount of herbs you use in any recipe are a matter of personal taste and a bit of luck of the draw.
You will always have the most consistent flavor if you use fresh herbs — in this Lemon & Herb Stuffed Chicken or in any recipe.
In general (note that word there, please) you can count:
3 fresh sprigs = 1 teaspoon freshly chopped = 1/2 teaspoon dried
You can at least use this as a rough guide.
I’ve provided a conversion key at the bottom of my Lemon and Herb Stuffed Chicken recipe to show the amount of dried herbs to fresh herbs you need. And I’ve also provided links to the best quality of dried herbs I have found at the absolute best prices.
The exception to my fresh herbs use is for sauces, such as you will see in the notation at the end of this recipe for using the pan juices. I often use dried herbs for sauces because that way I don’t have to strain the larger, fresh herbs out of the sauce.
This recipe is easy to slice for leftovers if you don’t consume all of it at one sitting. And in the rare event you happen to have leftover pan juice, it is easy to retain the bones from this chicken, boil them several days into bone broth, then add your leftover pan juices and freeze it for use as chicken stock in other recipes.
If you don’t have a ready cache of fresh herbs, use the links in the recipe to the very best quality dried herbs at the best prices. These are the exact dried herbs on the shelves in my kitchen for those days it is too cold or rainy to go out and cut herbs or when my garden supply is low.
Remember, if you skimp on the ingredients, the taste is obvious in the meal.
À votre santé!
- 6 qt enameled French (Dutch) oven
- garden snips (if using your own fresh herbs)
- cotton kitchen twine or string
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
- 10-12 sprigs fresh Rosemary (1 teaspoon dried)
- 10-12 sprigs fresh Oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
- 10-12 sprigs fresh Thyme (1 teaspoon dried)
- 6 sprigs fresh Parsley (1 teaspoon dried)
- 3 springs fresh Sage (1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 3 cloves fresh Garlic peeled & whole or smashed with a knife edge
- 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (for pan juices)
- Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
- Snip herbs from your garden, about 3-4 inches for each sprig if you are using fresh herbs. Place them in water in a small glass on the counter until you use them. (Save any leftovers in your fridge for later use.)
- Remove any innards from your chicken and set them aside for later use in stock. (They freeze well in case you don't make the stock right away.) Then rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Place it in your French oven pot with the wings pointing up.
- Stuff the chicken with interspersed herbs, lemon slices, and garlic cloves. Be sure to over-stuff it. It's fine if some of the herbs are sticking out. (Go back to the garden and cut more herbs if you don't have enough to over-fill the chicken.) The exact amount or ratio of herbs is less important than overstuffing the bird.
- Cut off a few inches of your kitchen twine and tie the legs together at the feet to hold the herb-lemon-garlic stuffing inside.
- Place the pot in your oven with the lid on. Bake for 1 hour.
- Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.
- NOTE: Be sure to either remove bird from pot or be the sole one to cut at the table because you DO NOT want knife marks inside your good pot.
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A good French oven is essential in this recipe. We suggest one of these two.
This wonderful Staub 5.5 quart French oven is available on Amazon in this gorgeous color called Grenadine. This is the perfect pot for Poule Bonhomme.
Or you can opt for the Le Creuset version in this classic blue called Marseilles, also on Amazon. It’s 5.5 quarts as well, and it is the perfect all-around sized cocotte.
And for wine with this dish, we suggest one of these delightful French Rosés.
Almost any side dish pairs well with Poule Bonhomme, but you can never go wrong with this one.
And for dessert, a classic French torte.