At some point, when I was much younger, I stopped ordering chicken in restaurants. Chicken, the younger, sillier me rationalized, was something I cooked at home, so why order it in restaurants. Things like duck, lamb, veal, scallops, turbot… not only was I not buying these things in the local Food Emporium, even if I had, I wouldn’t have known how to cook them. So, when I had the chance to dine out in fancy restaurants–and even not that fancy restaurants–I would try to order anything but chicken. It reached a point where I wouldn’t even really read the chicken items on menus. I’d just skip over them looking for more exotic meats.
Of course, I was young and stupid and fortunately, I got over this ridiculous eccentricity pretty quickly. Because sometimes, there’s nothing better than a really well-roasted chicken or a perfectly cooked oyako-don. In fact, some of the world’s best restaurants’ dishes are chicken dishes. Like Auberge Bressane’s coq au vin or Le Cinq’s chicken and lobster en cocotte. One of the most amazing culinary experiences I have ever enjoyed was at Alain Ducasse in Paris, which S and I went to during our honeymoon. The one and only time we went there, we both ordered the Winter Truffle Menu. The main course was a wonderfully tender chicken breast, with a gorgeous white sauce. This was then smothered with a mountain of paper thin shavings of the most incredibly aromatic white truffle. Chicken had never been as sensuous.
S and I made a quick, casual dinner for a couple of friends this past Thursday. For starters, S whipped up some super-delicious lamb ravioli tossed in a sage-butter sauce. (The lamb was actually the leftovers from our 7-hour lamb roast.) For our main, I slow-cooked a couple of chickens “en cocotte”. I cooked them with leeks, carrots and garlic in S’s awesome 40cm Staub cocotte at 120ºC for 75 minutes. To go with the chicken, I tossed some rocket and spinach with some olive oil and raspberry flavored vinegar. S helped me carve the chicken and plate it neatly over the greens. Over this, I poured a truffle-butter sauce that I made. I’m a big, big fan of white sauces. S complains that I love butter much too much. And I guess it’s true. To me, nothing beats a velvety smooth, well-made white sauce. This sauce was also a cinch to make, calling for only flour, butter, thickened cream, chicken stock, and my favourite magic ingredient, Tetsuya’s truffle salsa. The dish came together beautifully and is, I think, a fitting if not economical homage to that magic chicken dish S and I ate on our honeymoon.