Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Second Pastured Chicken Gets Buttered Up

Julia Child reportedly once said, “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.” While the quote may be apocryphal, it does bear a slight resemblance to the experiences surrounding my pastured chicken share at Restoration Farm.

Part of the fun of anticipating a new bird every four weeks or so is that you can really experiment with many different types of chicken techniques. I’ve always wondered about the results of those recipes where you push softened butter under the skin of the bird. How very Martha Stewart. Yet, if I’m to become truly poultry proficient, it seems like a technique I should master.

Now, there is a vast difference between whacking a chicken and gently caressing doctored dairy products into the “plump part.” One needs the skill of a chef and the sensibilities of a masseuse. Truth be told, the technique is just a little quirky.

I’ll take any excuse to buy a new cookbook, so my bible for the summer is “A Bird in the Oven and Then Some” by Mindy Fox. She promises 20 ways to roast the perfect chicken. That’s 15 more recipes than the five chickens included in my share, so I’ve got a nice margin for error. This time around, I’m working with Chicken #27, a plucky beauty that weighs in at 4.71 pounds.

The arrival of a new chicken is reason enough to plan a party. The recipe I’ve selected is a festive dish called Roast Chicken with Basil, Scallion, Lemon Butter and Potatoes. You can find the recipe here. My discerning dinner guests are San Diego “Food Blogga” Susan Russo, her husband Jeff, and my decluttering guru, Rosemary. (We take a day trip to Teddy Roosevelt's summer White House, Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay. Jeff is a Teddy fan, and we spend the day soaking up the history. There's a "chicken house" at Sagamore Hill and we learn from one of the informational plaques that chicken was served frequently at Teddy's table. Without even trying, I've managed to come up with an historically accurate menu to match our afternoon outing.)

It’s a little complicated to give a bird the spa treatment. It’s even more difficult to let your fingers do the walking and take photos for the food blog at the same time. Who needs a greasy F-stop? Fortunately, Susan agrees to take on photography duties and chronicle the process.

Here’s the basic technique. Five tablespoons of softened butter are combined with a generous amount of sliced basil leaves, scallions, garlic and lemon zest. You work your fingers under the skin at the cavity and keep working your way in until the skin of each breast is loosened. At this point, it feels a bit like you’ve put on latex gloves, but there is room to wiggle. Now, you start pushing the butter mixture in a little at a time, and continue to smooth the breasts until the butter is evenly distributed.



Next, the legs are tied with twine, and the bird is placed on a bed of small potatoes, before landing in the oven.


An hour later, the house is flavored with the meltingly-delicious aroma of herbs, garlic and citrus. The skin is copper-crisp and flecked with hints of green basil, and the entire bird is bathed in glistening, rich, lemony butter.

My dinner guests all heartily approve of their taste of Long Island farm-raised bird (and I'm sure Teddy Roosevelt would approve, as well), and I’ll likely be exercising my slick chicken fingers again soon.

©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

15 comments:

Julia said...

Looks delicious! Though, I have to say, you don't look particularly loaded in the photos ;)

One of the great benefits of putting butter under the skin as you did, is the skin gets nice and crispy in a fool-proof sort of way.

BTW, I don't think your RSS feed is working properly (nor your blog roll on the right side bar). Your posts haven't been making it to my newsfeed for several weeks now. Thankfully, I know your posting schedule, so I haven't missed any of your wonderful stories.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Same here (about the feed), but Twitter is keeping up.

Love the idea of a chicken share at your CSA. More and more farms are doing something similar around here.

~~louise~~ said...

I'm sorry T.W. but I had to wait until I was done rolling on the floor. Okay, I'm back...

I've actually used this "quirky" technique al la Mark Bittman. It does occasionally smoke up the house but oh goodness, the aroma is indescribably delicious!!!

I love seeing you in your new "back to nature" mode. It's quite becoming...

Thank you so much for sharing...

P.S. It seems your feed is working just fine on my blog. Maybe blogger fixed itself:)

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Teddy AND Julie would be proud. What a lovely bird.

Susan, thanks for the pictures. We wouldn't want T.W. to ruin his camera, even for us.
Sam

veron said...

I love those all in one dishes. I've always wanted to try working butter under the skin. Fantastic looking roast chicken and glad you got to share it with friends. :)

tasteofbeirut said...

As usual, I know I am going to be chuckling and you did not fail me! Merci, loved the masseuse sensibilities you displayed with that bird and I am sure the aroma in the house was as close to heavenly as possible.

lostpastremembered said...

Love the Julia Child quote... exactly the way I feel. I have been doing the Thomas Keller chicken lately... salt and pepper, high heat nothing else. It makes a perfect crisp bird but I sort of miss messing with the bird... your butter is inspiring and looks delish. Hoorah for your well raised bird!

Christine (Cook the Story) said...

Butter under the skin is truly my favourite way to roast a bird. Next time, make sure that "I've got you under my skin" (I like Diana Krall's) is part of your playlist for the evening. A perfect dinner, for sure!

Zany said...

I've done this technique before and the chicken came out to rave reviews. The past two weeks we've purchased small birds from the farmers market and I've cooked them in the crockpot.

Mary said...

A bird prepared in this manner would be irresistibly delicious. I'm sure your guests enjoyed every morsel of it.It also sounds like you had a grand day. I hope you have agreatday. Blessings...Mary

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Yes, Teddy would have approved. It's been a over a week since Jeff and I ate that beautiful bird, and we're still talking about how succulent it was. You are a gracious host and dear friend, TW. We can't wait to do it again!

Rosemary Flannery at FromClutter2Clarity said...

Tom:
That was one of the most memorable meals I have had. Still salivating over the potatoes. I have to say I was not aware of the process until you told me even though I was in the same room mixing cocktails. I think we made Julia proud.

rosemary@fromclutter2clarity

Gloria said...

Tom look absolutely georgeous and delicious!! Im hungry!! (really) gloria

Velva said...

Getting loaded is good fun when cooking-learning cooking techniques is even more fun after a couple of glasses of wine.
I have no doubt that the roasted chicken was fabulous-made even more fabulous because you enjoyed it with friends.

Velva

Mad Me-Shell said...

Wow, this looks delicious! I love the idea of stuffing butter under the skin (shocker). I'm going to have to hit the farmer's market with Zany and get a fresh bird for myself!