Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cook Once Eat Twice - Roast Chicken and Chicken Tarragon Salad

Chicken Gravy
Featured Ingredient: Chicken Gravy

I'm cheating a little bit on the secret ingredient as it has more of supporting role than an integral role in this first chicken dish (it's optional).

That said, who doesn't love roast chicken? The simplicity of throwing a raw protein in the oven, basting once and being rewarded with a golden, juicy bird.  Good on its own, with a side of mashed potatoes and the aforementioned gravy PLUS the perfect base for leftovers!
The flavor of this roast chicken is clean and subtle. It is not overly seasoned as this keeps it kid friendly.  The ingredient measures are approximate depending on the size of the bird which can range from 3.5 lbs to 5 lbs. 
Simple Roast Chicken - Recipe #1 
1 small onion quartered
1 stalk celery cut into three pieces
1 large lemon wedge
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon fresh italian parsley chopped - you can also substitute 1 tsp of a mild dried herb like marjoram
6 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter softened
P:reheat oven to 400 degrees F
Remove chicken livers etc from inside of chicken.  Rinse inside and out with cold tap water.   Pat dry.  Tuck wings under chicken.
Insert onion, celery and lemon wedge into chicken cavity.  In a microwave safe dish mix herbs with the softened butter - to make a compound butter.  With a butter knife carefully detach skin from the bottom of the chicken breast to form a pocket.  Shove about 5 tablespoons of butter underneath the skin into these pockets and distribute with the back of the butter knife or with your hands.  Try to push some butter onto the top part of the thighs.  Be careful not to pierce skin.
Microwave the remaing butter mixture until melted and brush it all over the chicken.  Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper.  Truss the chicken legs with kitchen string for better form.
Place chicken on a rack in a 9 X 13 roasting pan. If you don't have a rack it's no big deal.  Add about 1/4 cup of water to the roasting pan. You just don't want it in too large of a roasting pan as the water and any of the juices from the chicken will evaporate and burn onto the pan as the chicken cooks.
Roast for a a 1/2 hour, rotate pan, and baste chicken with juices.  Add more water if there are brown bits on the pan to help form an au jus. Roast for another 25 minutes and check the chicken temperature.  Cook times will vary depending on the size of your bird.  If the thigh registers at 180F and the breast at 165F you are good.  Remove to a rack and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
Simple Roast Chicken with Compound Butter
Heat chicken gravy.  Serve over chicken and mashed potatoes if desired.
Make a wonderful lunch for yourself.
This recipe is very special to me as it reminds me of Copley Square, Boston, Massachusetts 1987.  I fell in love with a quaint little cafe chain called Au Bon Pain when I was a freshman in college.  I would go there after I finished my shift at Mrs. Field's Cookies and later on at Rizzoli Bookstore. I'd sit in this manufactured French cafe and watch people, wait for people and experience that first taste of being on your own in charge of your own destiny.  I didn't love the cafe so much as one of their signature sandwiches - Chicken Tarragon.  I would order this every time... in any Au Bon Pain I could find... for years.  One day, I went into an Au Bon Pain in New York City for lunch and looked at their newly refurbished menu.  That special sandwich was Chicken Tarra-GONE!  After that, I rarely went back.
There are no Au Bon Pain's in my immediate area. I've seen them in airports, but the franchise doesn't have the presence it used to.  I still love that sandwich and memories it inspires.  So like most things that I love that got discontinued, I created a very similar tasting substitute, that reminds me of my favorite time and place in the world.
Chicken Tarragon Salad - Recipe #2
Measures are approximate - The below recipe is based on one serving.
1 cup roasted chicken diced (mostly breast meat, but you can use thigh as well)
1 small celery heart finely diced
1 tbsp mayonnaise or less (I don't like my chicken salad very mayonnaise-y, I just want a little binding to hold it together
Sliced almonds (about the same amount as the diced celery)
1 tsp dried tarragon ( I actually prefer the fresh minty like flavor of dried tarragon to its fresh counterpart).
Pinch of salt and pepper.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Serve on a crusty piece of french bread with a romaine lettuce leaf and tomato if desired. 
One bite of this transports me back.  Who would have thought all those memories could be unleashed by the contents between two pieces of bread.
Chicken Tarragon Salad
Later on in my career, due to disappearance of Au Bon Pain in my neck of the woods, I found another sandwich place I loved with a signature Chicken Salad Sandwich made with fresh dill at a place called Congress Rotisserie. Wouldn't you know that place is gone now too, but I have another variation of my chicken salad recipe with this place in mind, but I'll save that for another time.

1 comment:

  1. ahh, I just wrote about this same experience at Au Bon Pain in Boston, also in 1987...

    I still can't figure out why I would have even ordered that sandwich to begin with, but it stopped me in my tracks....