Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Chicken roasted with tarragon - An adventure in the kitchen

The chicken, ready for roasting.
The chicken, browning before the roasting.
Julia Child said that a roast chicken was one of the standards by which a cook or restaruant can be judged. And usually when James brings home a chicken from the farmers' market, I roast it with some herbs. WWJCD? Roast it wth herbs. But I did that last week. And the week before. So this week, I decided to try making her recipe for poulet poêlé à l'estragon, chicken roasted in a cassarole with tarragon.

Further, I decided to make it a little more elaborate by stuffing the chicken. Now the French becomes poulet poêlé à l'estragon farci aux duxelles (I think I got that right). I can turn out a roast chicken with less than half an hour of prep work, followed by ninety minutes or so in the oven (depending on the size of the bird). I knew this would take more time. It's a much more complex dish. I started a little later than I planned and a lot later than I should have. I assumed that the recipe would take about three hours to make. I was in the kitchen for more than five hours.

Then there was the cream cheese. I'm aware that Child had to, on occasion, substitute ingredients where American grocery stores just wouldn't have the item that a market in France would have. How much less French are you going to get than cream cheese? It was only after I made the dish that I realized that she was substituting for either farmer cheese or Neufchatel. I can get those. Some future time. On the other hand, I'll probably divide the remaining cream cheese into appropriate portions for future iterations of this dish and then freeze them.
The reason I wanted to it stuffed was to have an excuse to make duxelles, the chopped mushroom paste. This alone took well over an hour, although none of it was difficult. Chop the mushrooms. Wring them out in a towel (it was amazing how much liquid they exuded) and then sauté them. Easy, but fairly labor-intensive. Not a quick item.

Tore the skin of the breast.
Once the stuffing (the duxelle, some of the giblets, butter, cheese, and herbs) was done, I turned my attention to the chicken. WWJCD? Julia Child would have sewn the chicken shut, but I don't (currently) have a poultry needle, since I usually just truss things. Trussing was going to have to do. In the future, however, I might learn how to sew a bird shut, since I know that many of Child's recipes call for it. It certainly would have worked better.

Browning the chicken in the cassarole was not one of my proudest moments in the kitchen. I tore the skin. Damn. It was also clear that in attempting to truss it tight to cover the stuffing, I had stretched the skin too tight, making it more likely to tear. And it was getting late.

While the chicken was browning, I quickly chopped some carrot and onion. I got the chicken out of the casserole without any mishaps (though I worried), and softened the vegetables in the pot. Back in with the chicken, and then the whole thing went into the oven. I now had ninety minutes to take a quick breather and start cleaning up the kitchen. It needed it.

Port and cornstarch
Probably less yummy than it looks.
Things were easy from here. James helped by braising some leeks and making some noodles to go with the chicken while I worked on the sauce. Child says to degrease the sauce, and in this case there was plenty. I scooped a lot of fat off the surface. Then you reduce it down and further thicken it with cornstarch dissolved in port (which made me think of raspberry sauce. Then you mount it with butter. This is not diet food.

It was a lot of work. It make a big mess of the kitchen. It really tested my skill level. Compared to this, bœuf bourguignon was a snap. If I were sane, I would never again try to manipulate s stuffed chicken in a casserole.  But I'm already thinking of the next time I'll make this. I am trying not to just to try new dishes, but to broaden my repertoire.

The roasted chicken
This smelled wonderful
Sure, it was a pain. But when I pulled it out of the oven, the smell was incredible. This was a truly magnificent chicken dish. I want to eat it again. I can't think of anyone who would likely slave over an oven for the time it takes to make this. I'll just have to do it myself. I'll do better next time. Maybe I'll figure out how to turn the thing without tearing the damn skin off. And I should learn how to sew a chicken shut.

I'm already thinking of how I would plate things up next time and what dishes might be made alongside it.

A technical note, unrelated to cooking.
In writing this, I tried the Blogger iOS app. As I was finishing my meal, I wrote down some initial observations, wrote some lines that at I thought were funny, and then closed my iPad to finish cleanup. When I went back to the app, I saw my text for a moment, and then it vanished. Bad app! No cookie for you.

I later tried the app cautiously, hitting save frequently. When I went to the web interface (bigger, nicer keyboard on my computer), I found that the app had introduced some odd formatting where I had edited things.

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