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La Belle Cuisine - More Poultry Recipes

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Chef Alain Ducasse's Herb-Roasted Chicken



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La Belle Cuisine


Ambition and the Bird

The New York Times - March 20, 2002
By Alain Ducasse
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

This is the fourth of eight columns by Alain Ducasse, [then] chef and
owner of Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in Manhattan. They are
being written with Florence Fabricant.

Ducasse Made Simple:
120 Original Recipes from
the Master Chef Adapted
for the Home Chef

“I have a vivid memory of the time I roasted a chicken on my first job as
a full-fledged chef. It was in 1979 at L'Amandier, one of Roger Vergé's
restaurants in Mougins on the Riviera. I was 23.
Mr. Vergé was having some of the big guys over for lunch - Louis Outhier,
Jacques Maximin and Jo Rostang. And he asked me to prepare something.
It was a bit of a challenge, a dare.
So I did this roast chicken.
Now, a roast chicken can be stupidly simple, but it can also be magnificent.
Because I wanted to show off my talent, I had to coax the most flavor from
my chicken, and give it the best texture.
I made an herb butter to slip under the skin, and reached for originality by
putting mushrooms in it. I used chervil, tarragon and parsley but you can
substitute, depending on what looks fresh in the market.
Then, for the actual roasting, I didn't merely stick the chicken in the oven.
I browned it on top of the stove, roasted it partway, and then bedded it on
pieces of dark meat and garlic lightly browned in butter. Those extra chunks
of chicken intensified the pan juices so there would be a strong, natural,
thoroughly chicken-flavored base seasoned with herbs and garlic for a sauce.
And I have to tell you that at home, where you don't have a ready supply of
good chicken jus on hand, sacrificing a chicken leg is the easiest way to make
it. I also basted the chicken every 10 minutes. This was an important chicken
and I wanted to be involved every step of the way.
When the chicken was done, I set it on its end with the legs in the air so the fat
from the dark meat would seep into the breast and keep it juicy. By the way, the method I like for judging whether the chicken is done is to pour out some of the juices that collect in the cavity — they should not be pink. But be sure to save
them to add more flavor to your sauce.
The chicken should rest for half the time it took to roast. But do not let it cool
down too much. You can loosely wrap it in foil and even put it back in your
oven with the heat turned off and the door slightly ajar.
As for the sauce, it's simply a matter of straining the contents of your casserole, degreasing the juices and simmering them with a little additional stock. That's
how I made my chicken more than 20 years ago, and that's how we still serve
it in my restaurant today.”


Herb-Roasted Chicken

Time: 2 1/2 hours

13 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces white mushrooms,
wiped clean and finely diced
1 shallot, slivered
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh chervil leaves
1 branch fresh tarragon, leaves removed and minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 chicken leg and thigh, chopped in 8 pieces
1 head garlic, cloves unpeeled, crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup chicken stock
Leaves from 8 sprigs flat-leaf parsley.

1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium-size skillet, add mushrooms and
cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until mushrooms give up their
liquid and the liquid has evaporated. Add shallot. Remove mushrooms
from heat and cool to room temperature.
2. In a bowl, mix minced parsley, 1 tablespoon chives, the chervil and tarragon with 9 tablespoons butter. Mix in mushrooms. Season with salt
and pepper. Place mixture in heavy self-sealing plastic sandwich bag and flatten to fill entire bag. Place in freezer until firm.
3. Rinse and dry chicken inside and out. Using your fingers, carefully
separate skin from flesh of the breast and thighs. To cut thin mem-
branes, use a paring knife or small kitchen shears, but take care not
to pierce flesh or tear skin.
4. Slit bag holding herb butter and peel plastic away. Cut butter into
small slabs about one by two inches. Slip slabs under chicken skin.
Truss chicken or simply turn wing tips to back of chicken and tie legs.
5. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in heavy ovenproof casserole or
small roasting pan that will comfortably hold chicken. On stove top,
lightly brown chicken on all sides over medium heat. Place chicken
in oven breast side up and roast 20 minutes. Remove from oven and
remove chicken from casserole.
6. Add remaining butter to casserole, add leg and thigh pieces, garlic
and thyme and cook over medium heat until chicken pieces start
to brown. Place whole chicken on its side on top of chicken pieces,
return to oven and roast 10 minutes. Turn chicken and roast 10
minutes. Turn chicken breast-side up and roast about 15 minutes
longer, until done and juices are no longer pink.
7. Remove chicken from pan, stand on end with legs pointing straight up
on a rack placed over a platter. Allow to rest on an unlighted burner
about 15 minutes. Wrap loosely in foil and place breast-side up on
rack in turned-off oven with door slightly ajar another 15 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, pour off most of fat from casserole. Add stock to the ingredients in casserole and simmer about 10 minutes. Strain contents
of casserole through fine-mesh sieve into clean saucepan. Add any
juices that have drained out from chicken. Reheat and season to taste
with salt and pepper. Add remaining chives and parsley leaves.
9. Cut chicken into serving pieces. Spoon a little sauce over or around
and serve with additional sauce on the side.
Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Featured Archive Recipes:
Roast Chicken with Garlic and
Lemon (Gordon Hamersley)

Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables
(Wolfgang Puck)


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