Julia Child is the standard when it comes to cooking anything in traditional french cuisine and while a roast chicken may seem very American, it is actually very French.
Julia is a worldwide icon in the kitchen. She found herself at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France and nothing could stop her from becoming one of the greatest chefs of all time. She had a passion for cooking that heralded the notice of thousands.
So the other night we decided to make a roast chicken in the style of Julia Child. I have a copy of her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that my mom gave me for Christmas a few years ago. Most of the recipes span the length of several pages full of detailed instructions for one recipe. There are recipes within recipes and she adds at least 5 variations on each master recipe. This roast chicken recipe is one of those master recipes.
Roast Chicken, page 240-242
Julia suggests broiled tomatoes, green beans or peas, and sauteed, roasted, souffleed, or fried potatoes, or potato crepes to accompany. We made our own green onion mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts and tumeric/ginger carrots.
You will want your oven at 425 degrees.
Basically you take a 3-5 lb chicken, make sure that sucker is super dry or it will not brown properly, season the cavity with salt, throw in some butter, then truss it. We did not have any trussing twine on hand, so we went without, but trust me when I say it is so much better when trussed. Julia knows what she is talking about here and the women never took a short cut in her life. She is probably rolling over in her grave at Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee.
Then give that chicky’s skin a nice rub down with more butter.
Take even more butter (approx 2 Tbsp) and oil (1 Tbsp), melt in a small sauce pan. This is for basting that bad boy.
Place your nicely buttered chicken breast up in the roasting pan. If you’ve got them, throw a sliced carrot and onion around it. Set the roasting pan in the middle of your preheated oven for 15 minutes. After 5 minutes, you will rotate it to the left side, then after 5 more minutes rotate it onto the right side – you will of course baste it with butter each time you rotate.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees, leaving the chicken on it’s right side for the moment, you will now baste every 8-10 minutes. Use the drippings in the pan for basting once the butter/oil is gone.
So Julia says that a 3 lb bird takes 1 hour and 10-20 minutes to cook, 4 lbs is an additional 5-10 minutes and 4 1/2 lbs is another 10 minutes.
I’m telling you this now because halfway through the estimated cooking time, you will need to salt the chicken again and turn it onto it’s left side. So for a 3 lb bird, that would be after 20-25 minutes on it’s ride side at 350. Again, don’t forget that you should still be basting this sucker every 8-10 minutes.
When 15 minutes remain in roasting time, so 55 minutes (again for a 3 lb chick) have elapsed from the point you put the fella in the oven, you will need to salt again and turn it back to breast up. Of course, continue basting. When it doubt, just baste it. Might as well just bathe it in tub of butter.
The chicken is almost done when: a sudden rain of splutters in the oven (wtf? not sure this is even english, but i’m guessing it’s all that sound the drippings make?), a swelling of the breast (don’t worry men, it’s just a chicken breast) and slight puff of the skin and the drumstick is loose enough to move in its socket. For a true check, all juices should be a clear yellow, so stab the drumstick with a fork to see.
When done, be sure to let rest for 5-10 minutes before carving.
To make the sauce:
Leave 2 Tbsp of fat in the pan, stir in 1/2 Tbsp minced shallot or green onion and cook slowly for 1 minute. Add 1 cup chicken stock and boil rapidly over high, scraping up the brown bits (yum!). Liquid should reduce to 1/2. Season with S&P. Remove from heat and add 1-2 Tbsp of (guess what??) butter.
With all that butter, I’m thinking maybe Paula Dean took a page out of good ol’ Julia’s book.