This August, almost 50 years after the book was published in America, Julia Child’s ode to the food of France, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was number one on the New York Times Bestseller list in the “How To” category. How amazing is that? Because of the fun movie, (and even more fun book), Julie and Julia, a whole new generation of Americans are embracing the cooking and techniques of the grande dame of French cuisine.
Here’s what I found when researching Julia’s classic Roast Chicken recipe for a cooking class. Times have changed – and the birds we buy today, rather than the ones Julia had access to 50 years ago – have probably changed, too. So I cook my roast chicken a little differently than hers. But I think the take-away from Julia’s influence is her careful consideration and the precise instructions to the American home cook. The book is not just about aspic or tripe – but has some beautifully easy and delicious recipes that anyone can incorporate in their menu repertoire. Check out her quick Blender Mayonnaise, her incredibly delicious Onion Soup Gratinee, or the perfect Tomatoes stuffed with Bread Crumbs, Herbs and Garlic.
1) Chicken on The Veggies – Often you will see a recipe for roast chicken that places the bird right on top of vegetables in the bottom of the pan. My experience is that the bottom of the chicken is soggy – and the veggies don’t roast correctly. Setting the chicken in a “V-Rack” in the roasting pan is my answer to allowing proper browning of both veg and chicken.
2) Starting at a very high temperature, then lowering it does not result in a crispier skin. A constant temperature maintained by a convection oven that circulates warm air is what creates the crispiest-crunchiest exterior.
Set the chicken breast side up. Pull the leg and thigh back to expose the joint that attaches it to the body (you can move the thigh section and pull it away from the body to help find the joint). Separate the leg and thigh from the carcass. Repeat the process with the other leg and thigh.
The breastbone runs along the top center of the chicken carcass. Feel for it with your fingers. Slice along both sides of the breastbone and remove the entire half of the breast meat with the wing attached. Do the same to remove the breast meat on the other side.
Now that you have all the parts off the bird, slice the parts into serving pieces:
• Turn the leg over and use the knife to cut through the joint that connects the leg to the thigh.
• Remove the wings from the breast halves and slice each half of breast meat crosswise, making 5 or 6 slices per breast half.
Here’s something about Julia Child that you might not know. What was Julia’s first meal for her new husband Paul? Believe it or not – Brains in Red Wine! (After trying to eat it, they threw it out, and had something else for dinner:)