My least favorite dinner growing up was roast chicken. I didn’t actively dislike it, but it tasted, you know, like chicken. Like nothing.
So I’ve never roasted a whole chicken. There is one roast chicken in Seattle that I do like, and it’s the one that is synonymous with roast chicken here: Le Pichet. I will bet you five bucks that if you collar a random Seattle foodie and say, “I want to go out for roast chicken. Where should I go?” they will answer, “Le Pichet” before you finish asking the question.
Le Pichet’s roast chicken is made to order, which means it takes about an hour. They start with a good chicken and cook it perfectly, of course, but this alone isn’t enough to convince me. I’m sure you could take a poulet de Bresse, slaughter it just before cooking, and serve it to me with crisp, golden skin, and I would still pick at it.
What distinguishes Le Pichet’s chicken is sauce. When Laurie and I ordered it, I believe it came with an Armagnac cream sauce with chestnuts. That may not be exactly right, but it’s certainly plausible. They change the sauce and vegetable constantly. Here it is served with roasted apples and potatoes and some kind of rich looking gravy. In every case, there’s enough sauce that you won’t have to endure a bite of chicken with neither sauce nor skin.
I made roast chicken last night and took the saucy strategy even further by marinating the chicken and then turning the marinade into sauce. The recipe is from Fine Cooking, January 2004, which is their best issue ever. In addition to the roast chicken, there’s a groundbreaking article on vegetable sautes. For weeks after receiving this issue, I was making what Laurie called the “vegetable saute of the day,” with selections like fennel, red onion, and arugula; green beans and radicchio with shaved parmesan; or mushrooms and spinach with soppressata crisps. Then we lost the issue and had to reorder it from finecooking.com for $10. I suggest you do the same.
Here’s the roast chicken recipe. There are three other suggested marinades and endless possible variations, so buy that magazine.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH SESAME SAUCE
1 chicken, cut into six serving pieces (we continue to be delighted with organic Smart Chicken)
5 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the marinade:
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup dry sherry or rice wine
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons hot sauce or chile garlic sauce
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Dry the chicken pieces well and give them a few pokes on each side with a knife for maximum marinade exposure. Rub the chicken with salt and garlic. Place in a large Ziploc bag and add the marinade ingredients. Press the air out of the bag and marinate overnight in the refrigerator, turning the bag over once.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the chicken from the bag and place the pieces in a large Pyrex roasting pan. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Let the chicken sit out at room temperature while the oven preheats. Roast for 1 hour, basting frequently after the first half hour.
Remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Defat the sauce with a spoon (I’m terrible at this) or by straining into a gravy separator. Cut the chicken breasts in half and serve each person half a breast and one leg or thigh. Spoon sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Make more sauce available at the table.