I’m not in the habit of eating friends, or even roasting them for fun, but today Chef tells us that roast chicken is our best friend. We are also getting to the midpoint of the course and I think he’s giving hints that this may be our final exam dish. Either way, I’m looking forward to how Le Cordon Bleu makes a roast bird. I’m especially interested to see the finer techniques. Of all the meat dishes, I make roast chicken the most. It’s my weekend go-to dish when I’m busy at home. It’s a meal that is economical, practical and elegant. It’s relatively simple, makes a whole lot of food, supplies fabulous leftovers for days, and fills the house with a warm, comforting aroma.
Today each of will be roasting a whole chicken. My current method is to simply remove the inside packages, place it on a roasting rack inside a warm 350-degree oven and come back when it’s golden and the juices run clear (about 20 minutes per pound). But today we’re taking it to a whole new level: we’re going to the spa.
We start with the chicken massage and mani/pedi. Our chickens arrive with feet, scales and toenails intact. So the first order of business is to remove the scales from the feet with a kitchen blow torch and clip the nails. Once the pedi callous treatment is over, we give the whole skin a once-over with the blow torch, unclogging any pores that might still have feather bits in them. It’s important to be fast but effective, for this is not the time to give the chicken a spray tan! Next the wings are clipped at the tip; manicure finished.
Now we move to the inside and make sure anything that can be “bitter” is removed and replaced with perfumes of bay leaf and thyme. We make a few structural changes for better presentation, such as removing the neck and the wishbone. Next it’s liposuction time! Any large fat deposits and the wax glands on the tail are removed. Now for the final step, body shaping!
As you can see, this is a full luxury spa treatment, for nothing less will do for my best friend. And this body shaping, or trussing, will require some special tools. We have learned to truss with a needle that’s about 8 inches long and kitchen string. The bird is sewn and tied in eight places so that nothing can possible move and it will have the shape of a much younger chicken when complete.
The final stage is the tanning booth. At our spa we don’t just put them on a tanning bed, first we pre-tan the legs so that it will cook evenly in the oven. Then we prepare a nice bed of warm bones for the chicken to lie on while tanning. We baste every 15 minutes, making sure all coloring is even, and continue adding a little more butter to ensure that Golden California tan.
Finally the bird is done. It is gorgeous, plump and beautifully colored. When the strings from the trussing are cut, the bird keeps its shape. This is something worthy of bringing to the dining room table and slicing in front of an audience. I have been lucky enough to have a spa treatment, but I’ve never been as transformed as my chicken was today. Though the full chicken-spa treatment does add about 30 minutes to my prep time, it was certainly worth the effort and a delight to present.
Too bad you can’t buy a chicken already fresh from the spa and all you have to do is tan it. Maybe someday!