Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hamersley's Bistro roast chicken

It's time for another roast chicken recipe. I've done several before, trying out various unusual techniques I've seen suggested for developing flavor, retaining moistness and getting even cooking. I've just created a new tag for those posts so click on "roast chicken" in the post-post tags if you're interested.

This one is a classic recipe from Hamersley's Bistro in Boston adapted by Bistro Cooking at Home by Gordon Hamersley in 2003, adapted from that by Relish Magazine in 2008 and mentioned in a pan of Minetta Tavern, the hot ticket in New York, in an Atlantic food section blog post last week.

All of that history aside, the interesting thing here is how the chicken is flavored with a wet herb paste. It's halfway between a marinade and a spice rub and, interestingly, it's got no salt in it. And you roast the chicken with a cup of glop still plastered all over it. I'm quite curious what that's going to do to the texture of the skin. I want to think it's going to bake up like a salt dome and hold in the chicken's juices, but that can't possibly work.

But before we get to that, the paste. It's made up of:
1 cup flat-leaf parsley (I included the stems as I do whenever there aren't any textural issues.)
2 cloves garlic
2 shallots
1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper (Thank goodness I've finally upgraded my pepper grinder and didn't have to spend a half hour fruitlessly grinding away to accumulate a full Tablespoon.)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (replacing 1/2 teaspoon dried)

That all goes into the food processor, processed into a paste and slathered onto the chicken for a night in the refrigerator. Then it's just a light sprinkling of salt and pepper and into a 350 degree oven for an hour and a half or until a probe thermometer reads 170 degrees.

The recipe specifies putting it on a rack which I haven't got. Instead, I built an approximation out of wedges of potato and onion. I think I did a creditable job and it did keep the chicken's limbs outstretched, but the bottom ended up resting in the juices. I don't think I sacrificed a crispy chicken bottom (or top. I flipped the bird halfway through.) as even though most of the paste fell off, only small bits of skin out at the edges browned at all.

And, as you can, as soon as I started carving, the released juices (not a lot really) washed most of the rest of the paste away. Those juices I poured back into the pan and mixed with
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, and
1/2 head garlic that I had wrapped in foil and roasted alongside the chicken.

Not a half bad sauce, but the chicken is sufficiently moist and well flavored, so it isn't really necessary. It is pretty good with the potatoes, though. The infusion of flavor into the chicken is quite nice. It's just the right amount to enhance and not overwhelm the not-particularly-intense flavor of the meat. I'm particularly impressed with the juiciness of the breast meat, although that's probably because the chicken spent the second half of the cooking time with that side down soaking in the juices. I should have left it breast-side down the entire time. Then I might well have gotten crispy skin on the thigh-side. This is certainly on par with the other methods I've tried. There's no clear winner at this point, but that's only handicapping the Good Eats/ATK blend for all the butter you have to stuff under the skin.

I've got some interesting ideas about how a cobbled-together best-of method might work. Watch this space.


kat said...

If none of the seasoning goes under the skin how much flavor from it does the meat really take? We've found that if we don't season under the skin the flavor is all just in the skin.

billjac said...

I was surprised how much flavor did get through into the meat. It wasn't intense, but it brought dimension and brightness and hints of parsley, shallot and mustard were clearly identifiable even when the paste and skin were long gone.