Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Bouchon Roast Chicken
I did it. I made the Bouchon recipe for roasted chicken. I think there should be an Olympic gold medal or Congressional Medal of Honor for this recipe.
I've had the Bouchon cookbook for at least five years, but I never dared to attempt the chicken that gets so much praise. Those who have mastered it acknowledge it is a lot of work, but when I glanced at the recipe, I thought "no big deal."
Yeah, right. I completely glossed over the brine, which has to be heated and then cooled before the chicken goes in. I didn't anticipate a recent freeze would impact the thyme supply in my area (true), and I didn't realize I don't own butcher's twine.
I started with a halal chicken (one which is raised humanely and butchered in accordance with Islamic law), which I rinsed and dried. I had made the brine before leaving for work, and I came home at lunch to stick the bird in the brine. The brine, with its assortment of thyme, parsley, rosemary, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, lemon and salt, smelled absolutely fabulous. Even with no prior brining experience, I knew from the smell of the brine that the chicken would be delicious.
When I came home from work, I read the recipe ten times, and searched for a trussing video on YouTube. I found one with none other than Thomas Keller making the Bouchon roast chicken. Except in this video, the chicken roasts on a bed of root vegetables. Great idea. Next time.
Just one problem. No twine and I wasn't about to run to Williams-Sonoma at 7 PM when I still had a chicken to cook. So I improvised--I tied strips of cheesecloth together and used that instead of the twine.
Even with the video, my trussing leaves a lot to be desired. My chicken was listing to one side, and that didn't change after I put it in the pan and into the oven. Keller gives a lot of pointers about roasting the perfect chicken. The chicken should be at room temperature (for more even cooking), sprinkled with lots of kosher salt for even browning, and baked in a hot skillet. After heating the skillet on the cooktop, add a tablespoon of canola oil and let that get hot, then carefully place the chicken in the pan and move to your preheated oven. The chicken roasts at high heat for about 40 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, you baste it all over with the pan juices (to which you've added chopped fresh thyme). Then let it cool until you can eat it without burning off the roof of your mouth.
The chicken turned out to be mindblowingly good. Maybe the best chicken I've ever had. It was so good that I ate the drumsticks and wings for dinner. Standing over the pan. With the skin. I never eat dark meat, or skin, or over the pan. THAT'S how good it was. The breast was even better, moist, tender, melt in your mouth good.
Perhaps it was foolish of me to start my brining and roasting experience with the most revered roast chicken recipe, but my thinking was two-fold. If anyone can teach me how to make a great chicken, it's Thomas Keller. And my blogging friends Kayte and Nancy dreamed up a chef of the month theme for our Twitter avatars, and Kayte chose Thomas Keller for January. We'll all try to cook some dishes from the chef for that month and use one of the photos as our Twitter avatars. Right now, my avatar is Ad Hoc at Home chocolate chip cookies, but this beautiful (to me) roast chicken will have his turn soon. If you'd like the complete recipe (including the brine, which many recipes omit), you can find it here.