I’ve roasted a chicken or two in my life, yet when I read this post from Zester Daily today, I knew I’d been given a chance to up my game and learn a wee bit more from the French.
The nation of wine and cheese has much to say about poulet rôti. Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin writes in The Physiology of Taste,
A man can become a cook, but he has to be born a rôtisseur (14).
On poultry overall he states, . . . poultry is for the cook what canvas is for the painter . . . (159)
The great French chef August Escoffier in Le Guide Culinaire puts it plainly,
Les rôtis de viandes de boucherie et de volaille se dressent de la façon la plus simple. “Roasts of meat and poultry should be arranged and served simply” (717).
The Larousse Gastronomique also does not mince words,
Cover the breast with a thin slice of bacon fat (258).
The European Medieval imagination could do amazing things with a roast chicken. Barbara Ketcham Wheaton in her marvelous study Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen from 1300 to 1789, quotes from Le Viandier,
Imagine a roast suckling pig served with a chicken (also roasted) rising on its back, wearing a paper helmet covered with silver leaf and carrying a silvered paper lance. (21)
Osias Beert in the early 17th century offers us Still Life of a Roast Chicken, a Ham and Olives on Pewter Plates with a Bread Roll, an Orange, Wineglasses and a Rose on a Wooden Table.
Or how about Clara Peeters, Still life with a tart, roast chicken, bread, rice and olives (1635).
At the hour when I usually went downstairs to find out what there was for dinner . . . Françoise would be turning on the spit one of those chickens, such as she alone knew how to roast, chickens which had wafted far abroad from Combray the sweet savour of her merits, and which, while she was serving them to us at table, would make the quality of kindness predominate for the moment in my private conception of her character; the aroma of that cooked flesh, which she knew how to make so unctuous and so tender, seeming to me no more than the proper perfume of one of her many virtues . . . (131-132)
And, of course, the amazing Julia Child educated America on how to roast a chicken on The French Chef.
So, thanks to Julia Della Croce for her enlightening words this morning. Going out now to buy a chicken. Bon Appétit!