Friday, January 25, 2008

A Fowl Attempt

I met Umami the other day at Atelier Maitre Albert for a roast chicken lunch. She had been craving roast chicken and having done her research on Figaro, was determined to try the best roast chickens in Paris.

We had an interesting discussing during lunch. The two dishes I never, ever order in restaurants is pasta and chicken. I always think that pasta is one of those dishes that unless its dead cheap or has something special, then ts one of those dishes you can make pretty well at home. As for chicken, it always seems dry to me when I eat it outside. And, surprisingly, roast chicken is one of the few dishes I pull off surprisingly well. Probably due to the ease of preparation.

However, always eager to share Umami's latest food obsessions, I tried the chicken. It was good ... very good ... but I still didn't think it was worth paying the 18 euro (a la carte) for. I don't think my home roasted chicken fared much worse. And had more of the crispy skin that I so love.

I don't often do recipes here and I'm not sure I want to start now but I thought that I'd share my seasoning and some of the tricks and tips I use. As you read through, you'll notice that my emphasis is on the crispy skin...

Chicken Seasoning

- handful of sea salt
- poultry seasoning (I use Schwartz's from Montreal) - this is optional, I leave it out sometimes and increase the other ingredients - about a third of the sea salt
- honey - generous tablespoon or two
- juice of a lemon
- a few drops of olive oil (flavored is fine)

Adjust all amounts according to side of the bird. I typically use approximately half a cup for a 3-4 pound bird

1. Mix until its a thick paste

2. Take a handful and smear, spread or dollop under the skin of the bird. I like to throw in a handful and massage all over so its spread under the skin. Use approximately half of the seasoning under the skin.

3. Take half of the remaining and spread on the outside of the bird and the other half on the inside cavity of the bird.

4. Shove cloves of garlic, the lemon halves, onions, shallots, celery, whatever you have inside the cavity of the bird.

This recipe is very very flexible so use whatever you have on hand. Rosemary or chili are also great additions. And yes, I have read that seasoning on the outside doesn't penetrate the bird. That's true but then I get lovely seasoned skin on the outside, which I think is still very enjoyable.

And again, yes, I know that the chicken has enough oil so there is no need for more oil but I like putting a bit of oil on as I believe it enhances the crispiness of the skin.

And as for all the onions, garlic and celery inside, you may or may not wish to eat it or add to your gravy but I think because it all steams inside the bird, it enhances the flavor.

The honey helps with the caramelization of the bird and makes it a nice toasty brown color and gives it a subtle sweetness I love it with the chicken.

Tricks and Tips:

- For a tender breast (of chicken): Roast breast side up as there's no 'weight' on the breast so the meat is more tender

- For a juicier breast (I prefer juicy): Roast breast side down so that the fat and juices run down and give it a constant basting

- Start the bird off in a very hot high temperature oven and let roast for approximately 20 minutes until slightly browned at top then turn oven temperature down to roast for the remaining time. There are various opinions about this. Some find that it "seals" in the juices, much like browning, whereas others feel that there is no difference. I like doing it this way as it makes the skin crispier.

- Once finished cooking, take out of the oven and let sit for 15 minutes to let the juices settle before carving. Sneak the wing tips and chicken bum as the 'delice du chef'.

A roast chicken is very popular with the boy and I. It's democratic eating. Breast for the boy, big drumstick and both chicken wings for me. A chicken oyster each when dissecting the remainder of the bird after the meal and the carcass saved for soup while the leftovers go into a chicken salad the next day.

Atelier Maitre Albert
1 rue Maitre Albert, 75005
Metro: Maubert
Tel: 01 56 81 30 01


Anonymous said...

It's only 09:20 and I want to eat roast chicken now........

Shall certainly try your recipe next time the good lady and I roast a dead bird. Will let you know how it goes.

My warmest, Welshest, Thursday morning regards to you both. See you in a fortnight and the boy tomorrow.


Robyn said...

Oo I love a good roast chicken but I've never tried to do it myself! ._. I should try to follow your recipe..

I remember the rotisserie at Atelier Maitre Albert! I didn't order the chicken though. Pricey place, yeaah...that was my splurgiest meal in Paris!

Roast chicken in Chinatown here can be really good. And it's cheeeap. Hooyeah.