How to Roast a Chicken (alternate version)

28 05 2008

Yes, roasting a chicken is very easy.  But do you know what’s even easier?  Buying a fresh rotisserie chicken hot from the oven.  And some potatoes from the bottom of the rotisserie, where they’ve been soaking up chickeny goodness most of the day.

The ubiquitous parisian rotisserie

This picture was taken at the butcher that is closest to my apartment, but almost every butcher in town has one of these outside his shop.  I do not recommend walking down the street hungry in Paris, as you will be assaulted at least every 3 minutes with the delicious aroma of roasting chickens.  I believe I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating:  the chickens here in France are just plain tastier than their American brethren.  Chalk it up to farming practices or whatever, all I know is that I won’t touch a pre-roasted chicken in the States, and here I eat them at least twice a month.  (Apologies to my American readers.)

Note the price (if you can decipher that crazy French handwriting, that is): 5 euros.  The sign says 2 euros for potatoes, but sometimes they’ll just throw a handful into the bag with the chicken for free.  Throw together a salad and you’ve got dinner for 2-3 people in no time, for pocket change.

Vive la France!





Comfort Food

15 04 2008

A little while ago, I was browsing the forums on DallasFood and came upon a story about fried chicken.  It was a very cold and nasty Sunday afternoon, and I was suddenly hit with a wave of homesickness and the desire for some chicken-fried deliciousness from Lucky’s or Allgood brought tears to my eyes.

I began thinking about how to replicate the ever-so-comforting chicken fried steak (henceforward to be referred to as CFS), researching breading/battering methods, cooking oils, and so on.  It didn’t occur to me until several days later that the French steak haché may be just what I need to get the right cut-it-with-a-fork tenderness that only cubesteak can provide.  Upon inspection, however, it really looked more like fancy molded hamburger than anything.  Luckily, there were some thin steaks next to it on the shelf, which had clearly been cut across the grain, and looked as though they may have been tenderized as well.  I picked them up and went home, hungry with anticipation.

As for the recipe, I decided to base mine on the one from Cook’s Illustrated, as they are my go-to source for recipes, especially of the Americana variety.  I set up my breading station with meat, seasoned flour, and a thin batter made from egg, buttermilk (well, milk and lemon juice), baking powder, and baking soda.

Breading set-up for CFS

Meanwhile, I was heating up a large pan of peanut oil on the gas stove.  (Have I mentioned how psyched I am about the gas stove?  This is the first time in about 6 years I’ve had one at home!)  Anyway, when the oil was nice and hot, I dredged the steaks in flour, dipped them in the batter, and carefully placed them in the pan.

Putting the \'fried\' in chicken-fried steak

As you can see, the batter was a little thin.  Not the perfect CFS, but not bad for a first attempt.*  Once it was smothered in cream gravy (which, let’s face it, is just countrified béchamel sauce – France strikes again!) and joined by a heap of buttery mashed potatoes and roasted green beans, I had no complaints.

CFS dinner - the perfect comfort food?

* For those of you who must know, it was more in the style of Allgood than Lucky’s – very thin, crispy breading with a tendency to fall off.





Sufferin’ Succotash

12 03 2008

Saturdays tend to involve a certain amount of desperation in the shopping department.  Since everything is closed on Sundays (except the market, which everyone seems to forget about until late Sunday morning), there’s a bit of a better-stock-up-for-the-weekend mentality.  As a result, after a relaxing Saturday afternoon at the Musée Carnavalet, Nick and I found ourselves short on time and lacking in ingredients to make a proper dinner.  A trip to the store was in order, but early Saturday evening, the pickins can be slim.  Considering what food we did have, I had decided to make succotash to use up the vegetables in the fridge before they went south on me.  Pork roast sounded like it would go perfectly, but our efforts to find a suitable hunk of pork for roasting were thwarted at every turn.  Obviously, the copious Halal butchers were out, and the offerings at the supermarket were seriously picked over.  So we ended up buying a chicken instead, as well as some potatoes.

We got home and set straight to work.  I dealt with dicing the potatoes while Nick prepared the chicken.  Luckily, this particular chicken was sold without its head, feet, and innards – not always a given over here.  I tossed the potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in the bottom of the baking dish to act as a makeshift roasting rack.  As a bonus, I expected them to soak up the delicious chicken drippings.  Nick rubbed the chicken all over with a thin layer of olive oil and seasoned it, inside and out, with salt and pepper.  We stuffed some thyme, bay leaves and garlic into the cavity, and set the bird on top of the potatoes, breast side down to avoid overcooking.

Chicken and potatoes - before

Into the oven it went, and we busied ourselves with a game of cards while we waited.  After 30 or 40 minutes, I flipped the chicken breast side up to continue cooking and improve the browning.  Then I started on the succotash.  I cleaned green beans and broke them in halves, chopped up a (poblano?) pepper, and sliced some garlic.  I heated some olive oil in a pan and added the peppers.  When the seared peppers were making us cough uncontrollably, I added the green beans.  I cooked the green beans until brown spots began to appear, then added the garlic, followed shortly thereafter by a can of corn.  (Yes, I used canned corn.  It’s not in season, sue me.)  A little salt to season it, and my succotash was ready.

Succotash

The chicken was starting to look good when we realized that we had no thermometer, no way of knowing if it was fully cooked.  We jiggled the leg a bit and guessed it must be done. 

 Chicken and potatoes - after

We took it out of the dish and put it on a plate to rest.  Meanwhile, I stirred the potatoes and returned them to the oven to brown further.  After 15 or 20 minutes, Nick carved the chicken – it was perfect!  The potatoes were deliciously golden brown, so we plated it up.  Not too shabby for a desperate Saturday dinner.

Chicken, potatoes, and succotash





To Market, To Market…

25 02 2008

To buy a fat pig.

Home again, home again,

With a rack of his ribs.  (Or something like that.)

Seafood at the market

So we went to the marché again this weekend.  Sunday really seems to be the best day for it, and the earlier you go, the better the pickins.  One of the things I love most about the market is how you can find something new almost every time you go.  For example, I hadn’t seen a boulangerie counter before:

Bread at the market 

This one had some fabulous artisan breads, priced by the kilo.  We bought some pain au levain and went across the way to a cheesemonger’s booth.  We chose a hunk of gouda and a wedge of saint-nectaire to go with our bread.

Moving on to the produce – this is where the marché really shines.  The stuff is top quality and dirt cheap.  We saw these lettuces and had to have one.

De la salade

 We also picked up some Brussels sprouts, leeks, clementines, and strawberries. (I know, I know, strawberries in February?  All I can say is I could smell them from 3 feet away and that tends to be a good sign.)  Having done our homework, we have determined that eggs cost about half as much at the market as they do in the store, which isn’t so much to say that eggs are cheap at the market as that they are ridiculously expensive at the store.  No matter where you get them, though, they are fresher than any I’ve seen in any store in the States, which is nice.

And then we came across this:

Olives at the market

I was pleasantly surprised to see the olive display – another first.  After tasting a few we took home half a kilo of the ones on the right.  At this point, I was beginning to wonder what exactly we would be doing with all of this food we had just bought.  Salad with Brussels sprouts?  And olives?  What about the clementines?  And the eggs?  Leek omelettes?  We need some meat.  So we headed back through the crowd towards the butcher.  It was getting to be about the time when the vendors start packing up to leave, so there was a huge line for the rotisserie chickens (which, by the way, smelled fantastic).  We got in line and when we got to the front, noticed something that looked like a pork tenderloin sitting alone among the chicken scraps.  I asked the butcher what it was.  “Travers du porc,” came the reply.  Ok, can I have half of it?  He flipped it over to reveal that it was, in fact, a rack of pork ribs, much to Nick’s and my delight.

Well, we brought it all home and had a well-earned snack of bread and cheese.  We took a few nibbles of the ribs, just to make sure they would be ok for dinner.  Now, this may horrify any barbeque aficionados out there, but these ribs didn’t have a hint of smoke.  They were simply salted, slow roasted, chicken-fat basted (does that make them Kosher?) ribs.  And boy, were they good.  Quite a departure from what we were used to back home, though.

Dinner was a simple affair.  We were tired from watching Six Nations rugby on Saturday, but luckily the rotisserie had done most of the work for us.  Nick diced up some potatoes we found in the cupboard, tossed them with salt, pepper and olive oil, and roasted them.

Roast potato prep

When they were almost done, he put the ribs on top to warm through while I got the salad ready.  Wash and tear the lettuce, drizzle with a simple vinaigrette, and top with olives.  Voilà!  Dinner is served:

Mmmmm… ribs

Dessert was, in a very Alice Waters moment, perfectly sweet clementines.








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