Ceci n’est pas un Poulet


Growing up I had a nanny, of sorts: a brusque Irish woman who came once a week to pick me up from school. She’d buy me a candy bar and let me and my sister watch cartoons all afternoon while she cooked dinner. There’s more to her than that, of course, but for this blog post I’ll concentrate on her cooking. Dinner was invariable a dry as bones chicken, mashed potatoes and frozen corn. Her mashed potatoes were unbelievably good. I think it was the only food she made that she tasted before she served it. The chicken I think must have been put in a pan in the oven for an hour, no butter, lemon, herbs, or spices, and served as was. Growing up, that for me was chicken. Well, that or chicken nuggets or the fried chicken that came in Swanson’s TV dinners.

The chicken can be such a prosaic animal. I’ve heard that in a few years it will have surpassed the goat as the most frequently eaten animal in the world. Those factory farmed Purdue chickens grow so fast and are so cheap in the supermarket that it’s hard to even think of that sort of animal as ever having been alive to begin with. The chicken is the tofu of animals. The way most people cook it, it’s a bland sponge that just takes on the flavors of what you cook it with—the tabula rasa of meats.

But as usual, cooking for oneself with good ingredients changes one’s perspective. Yes, it is worth getting an organic free-range chicken. They are a lot more expensive, but they’re also a lot more flavorful. They actually taste like something instead of nothing, in addition to being a hell of a lot better for you.

I’m not one of those cooks who has a single solid roast chicken recipe they use every time. I have several. This one is my newest favorite. I like it because it relies almost totally on the lemon in the cavity to keep the meat moist (as opposed to slatherings of butter.) It’s served with a garlic lemon puree that’s made with milk. The sauce, which is served at room temperature, gives the chicken a delightfully weird flavor, rich and light simultaneously. Like most roast chicken recipes this one is easy but also easy to get wrong. Make sure to watch the level of water in the roasting pan and to add more if it’s dried out in the oven.

Garlic Chicken Provencal

(Adapted from Patricia Wells at Food & Wine)

For the lemon/garlic puree:

4 heads garlic, separated but unpeeled

2 cups whole milk

1 organic lemon, thinly sliced


For the chicken:

One roasting chicken, about 4 lbs


White pepper

1 lemon, quartered

One bunch of thyme (8 sprigs, ½ teaspoon leaves)

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered

4 carrots, quartered

4 onions, quartered

1 head garlic, separated but unpeeled

6 bay leaves

4 sprigs rosemary

½ teaspoon oregano

1.)   To make the puree, in a saucepan simmer the garlic cloves in the milk over very low heat for 30 minutes or until the garlic is nice and soft.


2.)   Strain garlic, reserve milk.

3.)   When garlic is cool, unpeel cloves and puree them in a food processor with milk and lemon slices. Season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

4.)   Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

5.)   Season cavity and outside of chicken with salt and white pepper. Insert lemon quarters and thyme sprigs into cavity.


Mise en Place

6.)   In roasting pan place potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic cloves. Lay herbs on top of vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan. Place chicken on top of vegetables.


7.)   Roast Chicken for about an hour and a quarter, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove lemon quarters from chicken cavity and squeeze juice over chicken. Carve chicken, peel garlic cloves, and serve with vegetables and lemon and garlic puree.



One thought on “Ceci n’est pas un Poulet

  1. Pingback: Rosemary and Thyme Oven-Roasted Chicken | Recipes for a Healthy You

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