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Classic French Technique not working: Chicken Sauté

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I am attempting a classic French cooking technique for sautéing chicken. The technique is described in La cuisine de référence : Techniques et préparations de base, fiches techniques de fabrication by Michel Maincent Morel. In France, that book is considered the reference for professional culinary training (amazing book by the way).

However I can't make the technique work as described.

Poulet Sauté
Cut whole chicken in 4 or 8 pieces (I choose 8)
Lightly dust with flour and shake off excess flour
Heat butter in large sauté pan
Color chicken pieces a few minutes on every side without exageration
Cover sauté pan and place in 390 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 15mn or until cooked
Remove Chicken from pan, degrease pan and make pan sauce
Return Chicken to pan with sauce for a few minutes, then serve

The problem? When I take the covered pan out of the oven, the chicken pieces are swimming in about 1 inch of fat and juices. The skin is soggy and lost its beautiful crispiness I achieved earlier by sautéing them.

I just don't understand why you would cover a sauté pan when attempting to finish cooking sautéed chicken pieces?

I have checked the instructions 14 times, they are repeated in several recipes throughout the entire book, and even very detailed in the cooking techniques at the beginning of the book. I am 100% sure I am not forgetting anything.

The only potential explanation I have is that maybe this is due to the chicken's water content? In France, you purchase chicken dry and loosely packed in paper, vs in the US where I am now you purchase chicken swimming in its own juices, packed in plastic.

Any other ideas? Anyone ever seen that technique being executed successfully?

Thanks all!
post #2 of 8
There are two very likely issues.

First: You're using American chickens, which have a lot more fat under their skin than French chickens; and a higher moisture content as well. You might try shopping for your poultry at a 99 Ranch, another Asian market with a good selection of poultry, or one of the "live" purveyors in the LA area. Expect to pay significantly more than you would for Forster's Farms.

Second: The name is not the dish, we're really working with something more like "smothered" than "fried" chicken. As you've concluded, covered cooking renders the skin more steamed than sauteed. You can do something about this by draining the pan of all moisture before putting it in the oven; then crack the pan lid slightly before closing the oven door.

If you want a truly crisp skin, simply cook the chicken uncovered. There's no free lunch though, you'll risk drying your bird out.

Et la!
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Merci beaucoup BDL pour ta reponse!!

I buy my chickens to a lady at my farmer's market, they're really amazing chickens. A bit small, but only $14. They kill them on Saturday and I buy it Sunday morning! Talk about fresh. All they sell is chickens and eggs. Problem is you have to get up early to get your chicken, even if you called ahead to reserve one - that's the price of good chicken I guess.

I've also tried the $20 Rosie organic chicken from Gelson but that's truly awful and tasteless. IMO none of the chicken you can buy in any supermarket taste like chicken at all. Some of them can get close to the texture of chicken, but none of them have any taste at all. I've never tried 99 Ranch, that's a new experience I've got to try, thanks!

Cracking the lid open - now that's something I never thought of. I'll try that next time. Maybe totally uncover for the last few minutes.
post #4 of 8
I would follow BDL suggestions with an additive! Before you place the chickens in the oven I would drain the pan and then again add a knob of butter as you have accumulated a volume of fat and liquid you do not desire and you will lesson the steaming affect you are not wanting . Also crack the lid to 1/4
open but you must stay on top as to not dry the bird out. Hard to put a crunch
on a saute with sauce and hold it but let us know what you come up with.
P.S. When working saute I never covered the fish or chicken but just went on timing so is this perhaps a typo in the recipe? God forbid the printer made a mistake!:smoking:
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
post #5 of 8
Pardon my interuption, but this sounds somewhat like a fricassee rather than a saute.

Of course. what do I know, my undergraduate degree is from MHC and my graduate degree is from SHK and I learned French from Julia Child's "Mastering the art of French Cooking" ;)
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #6 of 8
you're just getting it too hot mate, chicken breast is a very tedious portion of meat for keeping moist, when the internal temp rises above 68Deg.C, the muscle fibres contract and it squeezes the moisture out, which with a lid has no where to escape, condenses and is absorbed by the skin. Problem is not the lid, its just too hot.

If you want to make sure you get a crisp skin (apart from having none-processed chickens) uncover it in the fridge for a day or two (dry fridge air will take out some moisture in the skin) and cover with oil (increases heat transfer- important as the skin needs to gelatinise-(73degrees) but the meat needs to stay much lower).

My advice; keep a check on the internal temp, and make sure it doesn't rise above 65degrees.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Not quite, this technique is definitely a Saute.

For a fricassee, you'd barely "harden" the chicken in butter (not sure of the correct english terminology - the french word is "raidir": meaning you don't want ANY coloration at all). Then you remove the chicken pieces, sweat some onions, "singe" them (add flour) to make a roux, then add the stock to make a veloute, and finish cooking the chicken in the simmering veloute. The chicken is certainly not crispy, since it's cooked in liquid, whereas for a saute it's never cooked in liquid, merely placed ON TOP of the sauce to give it some flavor and bring it back to temperature.
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Great ... thanks for the advice, I never thought of that! I'll try that next time.
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