The Willard Room's Alsatian Chicken Baeckeoffe 2.000

Michael Temchine for The Washington Post

Feb 4, 2009

This "undercover" dish is made in a large ceramic baeckeoffe, but a Le Creuset-style oval Dutch oven can be used. The dough seal helps make the dish authentic; it can be omitted if you tightly seal the pot opening with a piece of aluminum foil, then cover it with a snug-fitting pot lid.

The recipe calls for preserved lemons; see the related recipe for Quick Preserved Lemons, or you can buy preserved lemons at some Whole Foods markets (an olive bar item) and at Middle Eastern markets. Frozen artichoke bottoms may be substituted for the fresh ones and are available at Whole Foods Markets.

Servings: 2 generous servings
  • For the dough collar (optional)
  • 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 3/4 cup warm water (about 85 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon plus a small pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg yolk, for glazing the dough collar
  • For the chicken and vegetables
  • 1/2 preserved lemon (see headnote)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, for acidulating the artichoke soaking water
  • 3 small (about 12 ounces total) artichokes (may substitute 5 ounces peeled celeriac, from which 1/2-inch-thick curved pieces are cut; reserve in acidulated water until ready to use)
  • 1 1/3 pounds Roseval potatoes (may substitute Yukon Gold fingerlings; see NOTES)
  • 2 medium (about 9 ounces total) vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 (about 8 ounces total) button (baby) or cipollini onions, peeled and trimmed
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds young chicken, preferably air-chilled, such as Bell & Evans or Smart Chicken brand, excess skin trimmed
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • Leaves from 1 sprig of thyme, finely chopped
  • Leaves from 2 stems of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup homemade chicken broth, preferably rich chicken broth (see NOTES)
  • 1/4 cup store-bought chicken glace, such as Glace de Poulet Gold brand
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc

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For the dough collar: Combine the flour, water and salt in a large mixing bowl; whisk to form a smooth, soft dough. Let it rest in a cool place for 1 hour.

Lightly flour a work surface. Roll the dough on the surface so that the dough is 6 inches wide and about 1/4 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap, folding it over on itself, and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the chicken and vegetables: Rinse the preserved lemon half several times with cold water, then remove the rind without any of the white pith. Flatten the rind and cut into large dice.

Chef Legret does the next step to make sure the saltiness of the preserved lemon half is completely eliminated: Place the lemon rind in a small saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 1 minute. Drain the lemon rind and place in cold water until ready to use.

Place the lemon juice in a bowl large enough for soaking the artichoke bottoms and add enough water so that it will cover the trimmed bottoms.

Snap off the woody ends of the artichokes where each spear naturally breaks. Discard the leaves, then the heart. Use a paring knife to trim the rest of the bottom and stem fully, leaving only a green part, looking almost like a bare flower. Cut the artichoke bottoms in half and place them in the bowl of acidulated water to prevent them from turning brown.

Peel the potatoes, then use a paring knife to shape or "turn" each potato, if desired, into a small oval or football shape, placing them in a bowl of cool water as you work to keep the potatoes from discoloring.

Have ready an ice-water bath. Peel the tomatoes by first scoring their bottoms with an "X," then placing them in a bowl of just-boiled water for 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer to the ice-water bath. When they have cooled, discard the skins and cut the tomatoes into quarters. Discard the pulp and seeds; lay the remaining tomato pieces as flat as possible; the pieces should resemble slightly rounded, elongated diamond shapes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have ready an oval Dutch oven or ceramic baeckeoffe.

Use paper towels to pat dry the artichoke bottoms and potatoes.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil emits wisps of smoke. Add the potatoes, artichoke bottoms, onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to the Dutch oven or baeckeoffe.

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper to taste, then place it breast side up on top of the vegetables. Arrange the tomato pieces around the chicken; place the rosemary stems inside it. Sprinkle the pieces of preserved lemon rind and the chopped thyme and parsley over and around the chicken. Add the broth, glace and wine. Place the lid on the Dutch oven or baeckeoffe, then use the dough to seal around the edges of the lid, pressing the dough to create a band that is a few inches wide.

Whisk together the egg yolk with a little water in a small bowl. Brush the mixture all over the dough collar as a glaze.

Bake for 65 minutes, then transfer to the stove top (off the heat) and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, crack the dough collar and discard it.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board; let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Detach the legs and thighs. Carve the breast halves away from the bone, then cut the breast meat on the diagonal into 4 or 5 slices. Discard the rosemary sprigs.

Place the vegetables and the lemon and tomato pieces from the Dutch oven or baeckoffe in the center of 2 plates. Surround with the pieces of sliced breast; divide the remaining chicken pieces between the plates, and pour sauce from pot lightly over and around the chicken. Serve hot.

NOTES: Roseval potatoes are used in this dish as it is prepared in the Willard Room but might not be easy to find. They are slightly larger than fingerlings, with dark-red skins and yellow flesh.

Here the chef refers to a rich chicken broth, which he makes with vegetables and equal amounts of meat and bone; the ingredients are first long-roasted for added flavor. The broth is cooked slowly and never boiled; it is skimmed during cooking and strained before cooling.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Nicolas Legret, chef de cuisine at the Willard Room in the Willard InterContinental Hotel in downtown Washington.

Tested by Steven L. Katz and Bonnie S. Benwick.

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