Mode of Transport: Roast Chicken
It was a cold February in New York back in 2003, and my wife of just a few months brought home a whole roasted chicken from the Malaysian restaurant downstairs from our apartment. Typical of apartments in the old neighborhoods of New York, it can be a bit cold; so we had to wear socks and a sweater as to not freeze.
We had candles burning with lights dimmed to cultivate a warm atmosphere. So when Brenda, my wife, ripped open the bag in which the chicken was packed; the aroma instantly made me warm and comforted inside.
I can’t say that chicken is my favorite of the meat groups, but when prepared well like this one was, it’s hard to imagine it second to anything. The cook on the chicken was just perfect. The skin crisp and the meat succulent.
I believe the method they use is a typical Asian method, which is to steam the chicken first, then quickly fried. This Malaysian version is basted with some sort of soy/garlic glaze.
That night, like most, with plates in hand, we were surfing the internet for bargain flights, and we stumbled upon one to Paris. We never honeymooned after our wedding, so with rationale on our side – flights were booked. A few days later we landed in Charles de Gaulle and it was no warmer in Paris than it had been in New York. It was at the back end of the days where one can pretty much light up a cigarette just about anywhere; which I did at the baggage claim. We were definitely in France…
We were basically in the attic, and it couldn’t be more Parisian with it’s turn of the century furniture and the french windows. Near one of the windows was a desk. On it was a map of the city. This one looked old as there were already highlights made by the previous guest.
[Tweet “We were basically in the attic, and it couldn’t be more Parisian with it’s turn of the century furniture and the french windows”].
I didn’t mind it, someone had done the work in advance as far as I was concerned. The remote control for the cable television was also on the desk. Typical, I reach for the remote; but the view from the small semicircle window averted my attention.
Paris was simply beautiful. I felt like being part of that scene from a movie or a commercial. You know the one, where the camera pans out and you see the man sitting on the windowsill looking out onto the streets and the life below him.
Brenda and I unpacked and headed out into the cold. We crossed the Seine and said a quick prayer at Notre Dame, and headed over to Ile Saint Louis. Ile Saint Louis is untouched Paris.
The streets were what they were before Baron Haussmann urbanized the city (though I do think that Haussmann did a marvelous job with the thoroughfares). It’s also the most expensive real estate in all of Paris . It’s absolutely charming.
On 44 Rue Saint-Louis was the famous Boucherie Gardil. This famous butcher shop displayed all the best cuts of meat and game birds in the window. But the jewel of them all were the infamous black footed Bresse chickens. Laid out for all to see, front and center.
It’s proclaimed to be the best table chicken in the world. The sight of all this made Brenda hungry; and we sped off to one of my favorite stops, Brasserie Lipp. There was no Bresse chicken on the menu, so we opted for something we couldn’t find back home, Andouillette (basically a sausage made of veal, intestines and chitterlings), which we enjoyed with their house red bordeaux.
We knew that we probably wouldn’t have the time nor the means to eat at a Michelin Star restaurant and experience a true Bresse chicken dish, but we did see chicken rotisseries all over Paris. It was a beautiful sight, skin golden, drippings going from one bird to the next; ultimately landing on top of the bread and the potatoes that lay underneath.
We were going to get our hands around some chicken no matter what. What we couldn’t grasp was a handle on time. It simply got away from us and we were never able to have a proper roasted chicken meal during the time we were there.
Every time we tried, the places were either sold out of chicken, fully booked or closed. Due to this, the next few years there was an underlying obsession…
Since our return, we have filled our last 11 years with some great Chicken Meals. We have frequented the Malaysian Restaurant (Nyonya) downstairs from our apartment. In lieu of the real thing, for a Parisian fix, Balthazar serves a chicken for two that makes up for the lost opportunities.
There were a handful of memorable chickens:
In Barcelona 2009, we found a local place near the apartment we rented, right off Las Ramblas that specialized in rotisserie chicken. This one had a more smoky finish given by the paprika that the bird was seasoned with.
At the market in Arles, Brenda, my daughter Bailey and I bought a whole chicken from one of the stalls that served rotisserie chicken and found a corner to devour it. That same trip, we made it back to Paris and finally had a rotisserie chicken at the Marche Enfants Rouge.
This market space had tables set up on and we joined many local families enjoying their birds, red wine (drank out of little bordeaux glasses), and time together.
Summer 2014, our last day at Monterosso Al Mare happened to be a market day. It was barely 10 a.m. when we smelled it from afar. The three of us b-lined to the stall that was selling rotisserie chicken. It wasn’t an easy proposition; I kept getting boxed out by locals and old ladies were shouting their orders from yards behind me and getting served.
I can see the panic on my wife and daughter’s face as the number of birds were dwindling. Finally I asserted my New York self and got us a chicken. We found the nearest bench and had the best meal of our whole stay.
My friend Frankie DiCarlo serves up an amazing baby hen that tastes much like the one we had in Italy, in his restaurant Peasant. He roasts it in his high temp, open fire, brick oven. It’s rustic and simply beautiful.
It’s starting to get cold again in the evening, and I look forward to doing one of my favorite things, which is to find my warmest pair of socks, favorite sweater, invite my wife and daughter over to the computer to plan our next trip while eating a roast chicken.
Now that’s comfort. We also love to cook Roast Chicken and here are our favorite recipes from some of our favorite cookbooks:
What’s your favorite Roast Chicken? Let us know in the comments. Let’s travel the world, One dish at a time! Andrew, Brenda and Bailey
P.S. If you liked this Dish, we’d be so psyched if you shared it with your friends!