Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jerry Traunfeld's Bay Laurel Roasted Chicken (3/24)

A few months ago, I picked up a copy of Jerry Traunfeld's The Herbfarm Cookbook. I'd read great things about his food at The Herbfarm, and after eating his refreshing interpretation of an Indian thali at Poppy for Seattle Restaurant Week Autumn 2010, I was pretty intent on trying some of his recipes. Luckily enough, Jerry Traunfeld's cookbook includes a fantastically simple and delicious take on a roasted chicken.

Food & Wine also put up a version of this recipe. The only difference is the name of the recipe, and the servings it produces. The Herbfarm Cookbook basically uses half of everything, meaning 1 chicken, 12 bay leaves, 2 garlic cloves, 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

With such a short and simple list of ingredients, I wasn't convinced that this chicken would be anything special. But I was short on cash this week, and I needed to cook something substantial with as few ingredients as possible. All I had to buy was the chicken and the bay leaves, which is pretty amazing. And lucky for me, I ran across this amazing deal at Whole Foods. I almost bought ten chickens, but my mom just visited Seattle, which basically means that I have zero freezer space now.

What else was amazing was that this was the first time I got to use my new, proper roasting rack.

Look at that beauty. The only thing that I found annoying about this contraption was the rack's handles and the cleanup. Next time, I'm tucking those handles underneath the rack so that they don't fall on the chicken every other second. I'll just have to deal with the cleanup part though.

The kitchen smelled like bay laurel from the second I cracked open the leaves.

With the recipe only calling for two cloves of garlic, I didn't think there would be much garlic flavor in the end product.

Tucking these ingredients under the chicken skin was a little tough with my short fingers. The bay leaves were occasionally uncooperative too. The resulting chicken looked sickly or martian with its patted-down-dry and bulbous skin. It kind of creeped me out a little bit.

I let out a sigh of relief when the chicken got doused in salt, pepper, and olive oil and started to look a tad bit more edible.

The end product (see top) was entirely reassuring. If that's not edible, then I don't know what is. The roasted bay leaves tucked under the chicken made the chicken look beautiful. Artistic, even.

The intense aroma of the bay leaves combined with the melt in your mouth chunks of garlic make for a surprisingly satisfying roast chicken. The high-heat roasting technique creates some smoke in the oven, which adds to the aromatic heartiness of the dish. I was worried that the high heat would burn out the chicken or at least overcook some parts of the chicken, but the high heat allows for thoroughly crispy skin and perfectly juicy meat.

The Herbfarm Cookbook also suggests heating the drippings with a dry white wine to make a sauce, but I found this sauce to be passable. Maybe that's why it wasn't included in the Food & Wine version of the recipe.

Regardless of the jus, I was really happy with the results.

If you find yourself on a budget and craving some succulent chicken, don't hesitate to try this recipe out at home. Jerry Traunfeld, you are awesome. I can't wait to save up enough money one day to eat at The Herbfarm. In the meantime, I'll settle with exploring more of Jerry Traunfeld's clean flavors and ingenuity secondhand through his cookbook.

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