Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Julia Childs' "My Favorite Roast Chicken" (8/24)

Julia Childs is undeniably one of the world's greatest contributors to accessible, culinary education. Because I had never really cooked anything by Julia Childs, I made it a point to try out her roast chicken recipe. At first glance, the ingredient list and method seemed long for a roast chicken recipe, but really, both were pretty simple and manageable.

First, you dice up onions, carrots, and celery and throw them in a pan with some butter and mixed herbs (I just used thyme here). I love cooking these three vegetables together because they create such a distinctly French aroma. Stick to her suggested 5 minutes because they'll continue to cook in the oven.

Next, prep some parsley stems and celery leaves. A decent handful should do. Slice up a lemon into six slices.

After doing the routine washing and patting dry of the chicken, pull up the neck skin and secure it in place over the back with a toothpick. Don't forget to pat down the cavity as well. I think I've mentioned this before, but the less water there is on or in the chicken, the less steaming the chicken has to go through before it starts to properly roast. This picture of the toothpick is after I had already added the butter, which is why the skin here doesn't look very patted down.

This is the fun part. First, sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper into the cavity. I think about two pinches of each does a good job.

Second, line the cavity with the six slices of lemon. I like to put one lemon flat across the very bottom of the cavity where the neck would be, two along each side of the cavity where each of the chicken's breasts would be, and one along the "roof," or backbone, of the cavity. It's easier to just slide in the last slice along the backbone of the cavity after putting in the rest of the fillings.

Third, throw the parsley stems and celery leaves into the cavity like javelins.

Fourth, scoop in the nicely cooked onions, carrots, and celery, and let them fall as they may.

I followed Julia Childs' suggestion to butter the chicken first and then truss it, but I bet it would be easier to truss the bird first and then butter it so that all of the lightly cooked vegetables don't tumble out as easily.

After scattering some onions and carrots along the floor of the roasting pan, your bird is ready for takeoff.

Look at this chicken. So unassuming. Who would think from this picture that this chicken is filled to the brim with a delicious mountain of vegetables? After following Julia Childs' roasting times and temperatures, the chicken came out beautifully. It may seem tedious at first to do something to the chicken every 15 minutes, but the process really is worth it. I rotated the roasting pan every 15 minutes as well for more even cooking.

Business in the front.

Party in the back.

This chicken was out of this world. Not only was the chicken juicy from head to toe and back to breast, but this chicken also featured a ridiculously flavorful bounty of vegetables. Right when I cut the kitchen twine, my apartment filled with a drool-inducing aroma. The vegetables toppled out of the cavity like jewels from a treasure chest. I thought the carrots, onions, and celery would all be soggy after so much time in the oven, but they actually came out perfectly al dente. They were soft and had plenty of give on the outside, but they still packed a nice, firm, crunch on the inside. To all the cooked carrot naysayers out there, one bite of these just might make you reconsider.

The chicken meat itself didn't taste much like the lemon slices, but I think the slices are there more to add a bright note to the vegetables. Because the aroma from the cavity was so pleasant and pervasive, each bite of chicken had subtle hints of parsley, thyme, lemon, and celery. I expected this chicken to be fatty and heavy because French cooking is notorious for its use of butter, but after searching every nook and cranny of this chicken for one last bit or morsel, I found myself feeling fully satisfied, not regretfully disgusting.

This chicken is up there. Way up there. I still prefer Marcella Hazan's incomparably simple chicken because of its unbelievably juicy and citric meat, but as the competition stands so far, Marcella Hazan and Julia Childs are dominating.

More chickens to come.


  1. This looks so good. Against all odds, I'm hungry again. Would love to partake in that party, and the business end looks pretty exciting too.

  2. What shall I say...
    i'm Julia Child..Bon Apetit!!

    Actually I bought the Joy of Cooking.
    Wish me a luck! hehe


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