a home cook with notions & an appetite
We finally have a roasted chicken entry from Julia Child. I can vaguely remember Julia piped in from PBS on a few random shows as my mother may or may not have contemplated adding to her cooking repertoire in the 1970s. (I can tell you that the improved cooking, sadly, did not manifest.) I was still young, but I do recall kindly Julia assuring a group of women still finding their way in a newly minted “have it all” society that French Cooking was simple, good cooking that any woman could master. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Julia. However, I’m also quite obsessed with all things aimed at the 1970s woman under the guise of education in the household (cooking, organization, home decor, and so on) that could require more time to be spent at home for the modern woman. After all, it’s in these roots that we’ve begotten the super-organized and capable women of today that are presented to us as the role models we live up to today (our alphas being Oprah and Martha).
So, here we are, 37 years after the publication of the cookbook I’m using today – From Julia Child’s Kitchen. By this point, she’d officially become a brand inasmuch as being a brand was a brand back in 1975. As far as I can tell, there were no official Julia Child mattress sets, fresh dog food brands, cooking clogs or even a shoe deal. She had her show and three prior books. Which was more than enough to assure me that I, too, could learn from her the hows and whys of good and decent cooking.
Julia and I agree from the very start – that a roasted chicken is one of life’s great pleasures. (Honestly, I really can’t stop doing these on Sundays.) She also loves rubbing her chicken with butter. We both agree here. Then there’s the bacon…well, let’s explain after laying out the ingredients:
1 roasting chicken
5 or 6 strips of bacon
4 Tbs butter, 2 softened, 2 melted
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
Here’s the method in photo:
That bacon, with the obvious cracked pepper in it? Mine. Homemade, of course. Julia’s recipe calls for blanched bacon. Blanching bacon just means boiling it for 10 minutes. When it’s done, it will be cooked, but still able to crisp and render fat during cooking. This is a full trussing of the bird (yes, the internet has even better demos than Julia’s cookbook photos did…hard to believe, but food photography has come a long way since 1975). The fun part is that once the bird is trussed, you slather it with the softened butter and tie the blanched bacon to the outside of the bird. All of this to keep the bird moist during cooking.
My oven has preheated to 425 degrees. This is a bird that will be going through the flip technique. (Heh.) Have I mentioned how much I enjoy my Ove-Gloves? I’m not really one to gush about as-seen-on-TV, but I have to admit that without these gloves, I wouldn’t have as easy of a time when it comes to flipping whole, hot birds. The beauty is that the gloves are just tossed in the wash and are as good as new after. So – onto cooking Julia’s Poularde Rotie au four:
Into the 425-degree oven breast up for 5 minutes my carrot goes. As I’m a multi-tasker, I chop the carrot and set aside.
I flip the bird over onto a side, baste it with melted butter and cook for 5 minutes. I start chopping my onion.
I flip the bird over to the other side, baste with the remaining melted butter and cook for 15 minutes. I finish chopping my onion and set it aside.
I now turn the oven down to 350 degrees. The chopped onion and carrots join the chicken in the bottom of the pan (see, Ove-Glove is looking better and better when you picture holding up a whole hot chicken!). My chicken is flipped over again, and I baste the chicken every 20 minutes or so, taking care to flip the bird after 30 minutes to its side (again). For the last 15 minutes, the bird is cooked breast side up. As you might notice, bacon tied around a chicken is a tad unwieldy. However, between the chicken and bacon fat, there’s plenty of basting juices.
Once the bird is done (this is old school – juices running clear and drumsticks moving easily in joints – in 1975 we didn’t have insta-read thermometers at the ready). The chicken needs to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Just enough time to make a yummy gravy from the veggies.
I skimmed out as much fat as I could from the veggies using my basting bulb. After spooning the remaining mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, I mixed in a cup of chicken stock into the pan and boiled the mixture while mashing the onions and carrots. Despite no notation in the recipe, I did flavor this with salt and pepper to taste. In the end, this resembled a loose mash. A loose, tasty mash.
Once the bird was fully rested and carved, one thing became readily apparent. Parboiling bacon takes away every single bit of salt that was ever present in the bacon. Which means one is roasting a bird without a bit of salt. While pork fat has some taste, without salt, it’s not the awesome that is bacon. One other note about the 1970s – we were very, very afraid of something not being right with our meat. So we cooked it a lot. Tons, even. So this chicken was crazy cooked. So while the butter and bacon certainly helped (and the really phenomenal mash), the bird has an underlying dryness to it that can’t be denied. If I were going to do this again, I’d mix salt in with the butter and cook the bird less. The tasty, tasty mash would stay exactly the same.
For the record, corgi’s still enjoy par-boiled bacon leftovers even though they have no salt.