Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is one of those recipes that makes for a simple but elegant meal that can be prepared with a minimum of fuss. The trick is getting it just right. When it’s good, it’s a mouth-watering dinner that brings forth instinctive memories of Mom’s home-cooking. But when it’s wrong, it runs the range from an under-cooked, bloody mess to over-done, so dry it dehydrates you just thinking about it. To compensate for that narrow window of perfection, I’ve tried all sorts of methods. Slathering butter on the skin to crisp the skin quickly and keep the juices intact. Pan-searing the skin in advance, followed by a quick high-heat roast. Basting the chicken with a giant eyedropper. Buying a roasting rack and rotating the chicken on each side halfway through. Each method attempted to compensate for some failing of the previous, yet the end result was either completely hit-or-miss or involved far too much effort for what should be a straightforward meal.

I came across this recipe from Thomas Keller while watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations of all things. Who says you can’t learn anything watching television? The total amount of actual work involved using Keller’s recipe is roughly the sum total of five minutes. The trick I’ve found to making this very simple recipe successful is to do everything exactly as Thomas Keller says without question. Do one step differently and it doesn’t work. I have no idea why, but I’m not going to question a guy with not one, but two Michelin 3-stars under his belt.

The first step after cleaning the chicken, is to pat dry it thoroughly – it’s very important that the chicken is dry so as to minimize the production of steam while it roasts. Then let it sit out at room temperature for about an hour. According to the master, if you don’t let the “product” warm up to room temperature, then it won’t cook evenly. Based on personal experience, the master is right.

After the hour is up, set the oven to 450. While the oven preheats, its time to truss the bird. This is a very important step – trussing the chicken keeps it compact, so that all the parts will cook at the same rate in what is a relatively high-temperature cooking method. Trussing sounds scary if you haven’t done it before, but its one of those basic cooking skills that once you learn, its like riding a bicycle, with the exception that its even easier. Rather than explain how its done, just go watch this video of Keller in action. (Warning: the video and sound are not in sync. Just watch what he does more than what he says.) Keller also shows how to remove the wishbone so as to make carving the finished roast easier. This is the only step you can skip, but again, he’s right – removing the wishbone makes is possible to slide the whole breast off the bone with one easy slice.

Then season it with cracked pepper and kosher salt – don’t be shy with your seasoning. The sharp bite of the salt on the crisp skin is fantastic. Place it in an oven-proof skillet or roasting pan, and toss it in the oven. Roasting time varies by size. A smaller 3 1/2 pound chicken will take about 45 minutes, while the more standard 4 to 4 1/2 pound chickens will take about an hour. The skin will come out golden crisp and the meat will be basted in it own juices and fat. I usually let the roast rest for about 10 minutes prior to carving.

1. Clean chicken and pat dry thoroughly. Let rest for 1 hour to bring to room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

3. Remove wishbone (optional). Salt & pepper inside of chicken. Stuff optional aromatics (garlic, rosemary, thyme, etc.) in chicken.

4. Truss chicken. Season outside of chicken liberally with fresh pepper & kosher salt.

5. Place chicken in oven-proof skillet or a sheet pan & roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

“Indian-Style” Chicken Fricassee

Pardon the somewhat non-P.C. recipe title.  This is a Pierre Franey “60 Minute Gourmet” recipe courtesy of the New York Times – from 1988.  My how the times have a-changed – calling something “Indian-style” better be meant ironically, Rachel Ray does it in 30 minutes or less (or your next EVOO is free), and the Grey Lady still doesn’t understand why that paid-firewall idea didn’t work.  However, this recipe is STILL both easy and super tasty, especially the sauce.  A fricassee is a type of meat preparation, traditionally chicken, which involves browning the meat, then stewing it in a broth and finishing it with a cream sauce made from the broth.  This method of preparing chicken is particularly popular in Cajun cooking.  The Colonel has nothing on this finger-lickin’ good preparation.  First, the browning of the meat develops those rich flavors you can only get from the high heat searing of the meat combined with carmelization of the onion and garlic.  Then, you get the slow development of flavors and breakdown of muscle fibers from the braising in broth.  Finally, to that rich stew you add a shotgun blash of creamy goodness – or in this case, yogurty-goodness.  Francophone cultures always seem to figure out a way to take rustic or peasant-style food and elevate it to “cuisine”.  Bouillabaisse, moules et frites, ratatouille, coq au vin, bouef bourguignon…  Now I’m hungry again, and have a strange urge to play petanc.

Chicken Fricassee

1 chicken, 3 1/2 pounds, cut into serving pieces
salt and ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger root
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. turmeric
1 Tbs. ground coriander
1/4 tsp red-pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups skinless, seedless ripe tomatoes chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (or canned diced tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
1 cup fresh or canned chicken broth
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  You can also substitute chicken thighs for taking a whole chicken and chopping it into pieces.

Heat oil in a skillet large enough to hold all the pieces in one layer without crowding. Add chicken pieces, skin side down. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Drain off all the fat. Add onions and garlic. Cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add ginger, cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, pepper flakes, tomatoes and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and stir to blend. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes longer or until chicken is tender. Remove bay leaf. Stir in yogurt and sour cream. Bring to a simmer, sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve.

We usually leave out the sour cream and just use more yogurt – it works just as well.  In addition, we remove the chicken pieces at the end and blend the sauce with a stick blender, for a creamier, smoother sauce.

Asparagus Chicken in Spicy Black Bean Sauce

When you are tired and hungry, some days its nice to just have Ms. ChinaNob do all the work.   Especially if it involves busting out the wok and clay pot.  In spite of Ms. CN’s protestations that “cooking with a wok on an electric stove SUCKS!”, this dish still came out gobbledy-good, that belly-filling comfort food that is so yummy you have gobbled it down before you knew what happened.

Asparagus Chicken

1 pound chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, slice into 1-inch strips
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. canola oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 lb. asparagus, cut into two inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs. black bean sauce
1 tsp. oyster sauce
1/8 tsp. chili oil

Marinate chicken in soy sauce, garlic and ginger, half-hour minimum up to overnight.

Heat canola oil in wok over medium-high heat.   Saute onion until tender.   Add chicken and saute for 5 minutes.  Remove chicken and transfer to bowl.

Add asparagus and water, cook for 2 minutes.   Add back chicken, black bean sauce, oyster sauce, and chili oil.  Stir fry for 2 minutes or until chicken is cooked.  Serve over rice.

Lemon Chicken Ballotine with Fennel Garlic Confit

 Springtime eating doesn’t always have to involve goat cheese, microgreens and ramps.  It can also involve delicious carnivourous meals that when you put the food in your mouth, it makes you want to stand in a field of sunflowers in the south of France singing showtunes about bicycles.   Or something like that.

Regardless, this dish is a bright, sunny, sweet, savory, warm-weather treat – that still tastes like you got a nice plateful of meat.   And don’t be afraid of the “ballotine” – it’s just French for “meat roll”.

 

Chix Fennel

 

Lemon Chicken Ballotine Stuffed with Ricotta and Fennel Confit

4 thin chicken fillets
Salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta
1 cup Fennel, Lemon & Garlic Confit (below)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup white wine

Place the chicken fillets between two pieces of plastic wrap and flatten with a mallet or a heavy frying pan until they are about 1/4 inch thick.  Be careful – its easy to tear the chicken if you flatten it too roughly.   Season lightly with salt,  pepper and a little olive oil or the leftover, strained lemon oil from the confit. Refrigerate overnight or for a few hours.

Mix the ricotta with the confit.  Use a good ricotta.  Spread a quarter on each fillet and roll tightly. Seal with toothpicks.  This part can get messy – the ricotta/confit goo likes to squirt out the sides of the chicken roll.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat with the butter and any more oil strained off the chicken. Sear the chicken rolls, flipping with tongs, for about two minutes or until dark golden on each side. Pour in the white wine and turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for about twenty minutes.

Remove the toothpicks before serving. Serve with extra fennel confit.

Fennel, Lemon and Garlic Confit

1 large bulb of fennel, with stalks and tops
1 small lemon
6 large cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wash the fennel and lemon. Chop the fennel stalks into 3-4 inch pieces. Chop about half the fronds into bite size pieces – reserve the other half for garnish. Cut the lemon into quarters, removing seeds. Sliver the garlic.

Melt olive oil & butter over medium heat in a heavy saute pan.  Add the fennel, lemon, and garlic.  Season with black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook on low heat for about 45 minutes, or until soft and tender.

Blend with a food processor or stick blender to a chunky consistency.   Its keeps in the frdige for about two weeks, supposedly.  I eat it up way before then so I’ve never found out.  There’s something about whole lemon pieces stewed with garlic and then pureed up that is soooooooo goood.

Recipe couresy of Apartment Therapy.