Recipe from Ratio by Michael Ruhlman
We're on a never-ending search for the perfect roast chicken recipe. Actually, that's not exactly accurate. In truth, we're on a never-ending search for a recipe that beats the Barefoot Contessa's Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken.
As we mentioned last week, we just finished reading Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman. In his chapter about stocks, which includes ratios for thickening stocks with starch, Ruhlman introduced us to beurre manié, or butter into which flour has been kneaded.
Beurre manié can be used to thicken any sauce into which you would place butter. As Ruhlman says, that's pretty much every sauce. As an example of how to use this ratio, he gives a recipe for roasted chicken with sauce fines herbes.
Could the Ratio chicken beat our beloved Contessa?
The Ratio chicken is delicious -- perfectly moist and juicy. And we absolutely love the salty crust.
The sauce is a rich, velvety triumph of classic French flavors -- tarragon, parsley, chervil. It's a knockout.
But here's the thing -- the sauce is kind of difficult to make. Well, not difficult, exactly. But it's demanding, which we found frustrating -- especially after already cooking the bird for an hour. You reduce the juices and add onion. Reduce that and add wine. Reduce and add water. Reduce, add, reduce, add, reduce.
Don't get us wrong: The result was silky-smooth perfection. It was just a little more involved than we were expecting.
Would we recommend it? Yes. It's a special, gorgeous gravy that pairs nicely with the tender, nicely cooked chicken. And it's really interesting to cook with a beurre manié instead of butter.
But does it best our Contessa go-to? Not really. The Barefoot Contessa recipe is just so elegantly simple and easy to prepare.
Still, though, the Ratio chicken is a special treat that's really worth trying. And we're eager to sample more of Michael Ruhlman's ratio-based recipes.
Yield: Serves 4
Ingredients-- 1 roasting chicken (3-4 pounds)
-- Kosher salt
-- 1 tablespoon butter kneaded with 1 tablespoon flour or 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
-- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, tarragon, chervil, and chives (one or any combination of these), with several stems of each reserved
-- 1 medium yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
-- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
-- 1 cup white wine
-- 2 teaspoons minced shallots
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees (give it at least 25 minutes to get up to temperature).
Rinse and dry your bird, and keep the neck and any other innards except the liver (discard it or save it for another use). I like to truss the bird, pulling its legs together with butcher's string, crossing the two ends of the string and pulling them around the chicken, over the leg and wing, and tying the two ends at the neck; this results in a pretty cooked bird, one that rests more efficiently while you're making the sauce, with juicy white meat; while it's not strictly necessary, it's a definitely better roasted bird that comes out of the oven. If you're not trussing the bird, I recommend stuffing the cavity with onion, a halved lemon, and any extra herbs you may have.
Salt the bird heavily with kosher salt; you'll need about a tablespoon in all; the bird should look almost as though it's got a crust of salt on it. Place the bird in an ovenproof skillet and pop it into the oven for 1 hour. (Prepare the accompaniments now and the remaining ingredients for the sauce).
In a small bowl, combine the butter and flour, kneading it with your fingers until it becomes a uniform paste. Refrigerate it until you're ready to finish the sauce. Or combine the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl and set it near the stovetop.
Pick enough leaves of the parsley, tarragon, and chervil, if you're using it, and enough stems of chives so that you will have about a tablespoon of each once they're finely minced. Mince them and combine them. Reserve a few leafy stems of parsley and tarragon and a few stems of chives.
When the chicken has cooked for 1 hour, remove it from the oven. Stick a wooden spoon or other tool into the carcass to lift the bird out of the pan, allowing the skin to remain stuck to the pan. Set the bird on a cutting board of plate (it will release juices as it rests -- you'll add these juices to the sauce). Place the pan over high heat to cook some of the juices down, and brown the skin that stuck to the pan for a couple of minutes (be careful -- the pan handle will remain very hot; keep a sturdy, dry kitchen towel over it). Remove the tips of the wings from the chicken and add them to the pan, return the pan to the heat, and add the onion and carrot and reserved herb stems; cook these for about a minute over high heat. Add the wine and boil the wine down, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged wooden spoon to get up all the skin and browned juices. When the wine is nearly gone, the pan will begin to crackle as the last of the wine cooks off. Stir the onion and carrot and chicken, cooking them more to brown them slightly. Add about a cup of water and repeat the reduction (use hot water to speed up the process a little). While this last reduction is happening, sweat the shallots in a film of canola oil or butter just to soften. When the water in the pan is gone and the pan is crackling, add 8 ounces of water along with the juices from the chicken, bring it to a boil for a bout a minute and strain it into the saucepan with the shallots. Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the beurre manié, whisking or stirring until it is completely melted and the sauce has thickened. Remove it from the heat.
Remove each half of breast from the bird, keeping the wing attached (drawing your knife along either side of the breastbone, follow the wishbone down to the wing join and cut through the joint). Remove the legs from the chicken and separate the legs and the thighs. Add the fines herbes to the sauce and rewarm as necessary. Serve the chicken.