Sunday, February 28, 2010

To Truss or Not to Truss

Tonight, I took the advice of my two favorite cookbook writers: Nigella Lawson (whom I've loved for years) and Julia Child (with whom I am rapidly becoming acquainted). I made amuse-gueule au roquefort (cold roquefort cheese balls, or in my case, cold regular blue cheese balls), poulet rotis (roast chicken) and double potato mash. A delightful meal, I must say, and as buttery as can be. The cheese balls were one of those antiquated on-a-toothpick type hors d'oeuvres that have gone out of style based on their pasty appearance, but are really one of the most decadent, tasty appetizers you will ever have. The double potato mash was based on Nigella's recipe, but simpler--just potatoes, sweet potato, salt, and butter. But the piece de resistance (French, French, and more French) was the bird. It was a revelation.

Chicken, French or American, is chicken. (That was the revelation.)

The main thing that seems to differentiate French chicken a la Julia Child from your standard Barefoot Contessa chicken is the fact that French chicken is a lot more work. There's basting and turning and basting again. There's trussing. Of course, American chickens are sometimes trussed, too, but with French chicken the trussing seems paramount. You see, if you're like me and you don't read the whole recipe before going to the grocery store and you buy a chicken but not a trussing needle or twine, you end up just tucking the wing tips under the bird and letting the legs splay out as they will. Which seems fine, if there's no stuffing, which in this case there wasn't.

The problem is, if you don't truss the bird, you can't turn it on its side, which Julia seems to think is important. And if you don't turn it on its side... well, I'm not really sure what happens. Because our chicken turned out beautifully (I say our chicken because Ian was the orchestrator in the birdie's preparation--he pulled out the innards and buttered the cavity, all the icky sticky work that I'm sometimes too squeamish to handle). It was brown and moist (almost 20 minutes before Julia's estimated cooking time--possibly because of the cast iron skillet I cooked it in rather than a roasting pan, possibly because tastes have changed regarding the tenderness of chicken). It was... chicken. With butter. Tasty, but nothing spectacular. I suspect "spectacular" will come when I try out the stuffings. Next time.

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