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The Le Pichet roast chicken


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Laurie and I went to Le Pichet Friday night for our anniversary and had the famed roast chicken.  True to their word, it took almost exactly one hour.  In the meantime we enjoyed a demi-pichet of white Bordeaux and a couple of appetizers.  I had the French onion soup (a nice version with good homemade broth) and Laurie a broiled ramekin of brandade with some slices of toast and olives.  This was excellent, with a powerful marine flavor and silky texture.  Does anyone know if they sell salt cod at Delaurenti or elsewhere convenient?

We also enjoyed listening in on the high-roller regulars at the table next to us.  They brought their own wine including what I imagine was a very nice old bottle of Nuits-St.-Georges, and brought their own balloon glasses (Riedel, I think) and while they were waiting for their own chicken were discussing their upcoming trip to France.

With our chicken we ordered a demi-pichet of that Corbières everyone enjoyed at the eGullet gathering.  Now, the raison d'être of roast chicken is of course to maximize the acreage of crispy skin without overcooking the meat, and of course this was perfectly executed.  The chicken is served atop a bed of savoy cabbage and chestnuts with Armagnac cream sauce.  I don't mean to name myself an arbiter of taste, but think it's fair to say that if I enjoy a roast chicken, it's a spectacular one.  Too many bland roast chickens of my youth, no offense to heyjude.

The next day we headed to Portland so I could learn to make Cornish pasties, but that's another story.

To turn this into a potential thread, who else in town is doing interesting things with chicken?  Anyone getting especially good product, or coaxing amazing flavor out of otherwise ordinary birds?

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Mamster[and that is the only nickname I'll reveal at this venue],I'm not offended,but will remind you that prior to your born-again foodie life you would not allow food to even touch let alone have skin or spices. And now you have so much to teach me. Having bought chickens all over town and cooked them many ways,I think the Rocky Jr's from Whole Foods are the best:tender,meaty and flavorful. As for restaurants,I rarely order chicken anymore except as Moo Shu since we have it so often at home. Believe it or don't,Ruths Chris serves a fabulous boneless breast that Laurie has eaten when the carnivores need BEEF. Heyjude

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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You can probably gues what I have to say about poultry, smoke it!

But I know you don't have a smoker so I provide something a little more useful.

The best thing you can do to a chicken, any chicken, is brine it.  I vividly remember the first time I tried brined chicken breasts, as it was the juiciest chicken I ever had.  After you taste a brined chicken you can't go back and grilling becomes exciting again.

I get amazing, juicy and tasty chickens every time.  And I get the cheap 79 cents/lb chickens.  I haven't roasted a brined chicken but I have roasted a brined turkey and it came out great.  There are those who worry about the excess of salt ruins the drippings, but I didn't have any problems.  As a matter of fact, it was the best gravy I ever had.  True it was a little saltier than most gravies, but not by much.

Also, rosemary goes very well with chicken, either placed under the skin or in the cavity.

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So many of my threads turn into cooking threads that I'm starting to think it might be my fault or something.

Sometimes I make breaded chicken cutlets for dinner from a recipe in Cook's Illustrated.  The chicken is pounded and then brined, and it is amazingly juicy.  I've found that a brine with too much sugar can give chicken kind of a hot-dog flavor that I don't like, so now I typically cut it to just a teaspoon or so.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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What's your brine recipe?

Here's mine:

1 gal water

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup brown sugar (it makes the 'que smell better on the grill

1 cup vinegar

1 cup lemon and/or lime juice

1 bottle of Crystal Extra Hot sauce

healthy dash of cayenne powder

I'm thinking of trying out adding a cheap bourbon for my next chicken brine.

When I pound out the breasts, I haven't tried brining them but I do like to do a half bread - half parmesian cheese breading before frying (thanks to batgrrrl).  Then make a pan  reduction sauce with  lemon and dry vermouth or white wine.  Then I add a very healthy portion of butter to make it creamy.

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I like that idea of bourbon in the brine. But back to roasted chickens....

Pasta & Co, the take-out place on Quenn Anne (haven’t been for a couple of years, but guess it’s still there) made a great roasted chicken rubbed with herbs. It inspired my standard approach.

I mix dried oregano, marjoram, sage, & thyme (sometimes I add the smoked Spanish paprika called pimenton) with coarse salt, black pepper, garlic, and olive oil into a paste, then stuff it under the breast and thigh skin. I also rub it on the outside.

I like my chicken to fall apart, so I roast it pretty hot for an hour or so. Or I cook on the weber over indirect heat. I start breast down and turn after about 20 minutes. Lots of nice crispy skin, and the herb rub permeates the flesh. Next time, col klink’s brine....

Jim

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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col klink or anyone else, what is the optimum amount of time to let the bird sit in the brine solution?  Do you put the bird and brine in a big plastic bag, or in a bucket, and then rotate the bird every so often?

ps... mamster, I'm very glad to hear the good review for Le Pichet's roast chicken.  Would you say you liked the chicken better than what you ordered last time, ditto for Laurie?  You also mentioned Laurie had brandade.  I have never heard of this, can you please describe?

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I've had great luck with a half-bread half-ground-pecan crust with a pinch of curry powder for chicken breasts.  This was also in the Cook's article.  I think half the things I cook originated in Cook's.

Brandade de Morue is a French preparation of salt cod.  You soak and poach the dried fish and whip it with garlic, oil, and milk until it has the consistency of light mashed potatoes.  It is often then whipped up with actual potatoes, but it wasn't at Le Pichet.  The end result is a creamy, briny spread that's great on bread, or with roasted peppers or, now that I think about it, probably fries.

I think I liked the venison sausage of last time marginally better than the chicken, but I quite enjoyed both and would happily eat either again, except that I want to try something else next time I go.

There used to be a Pasta & Co just off Broadway, but it closed.  I'm still heartsick over that one.  Have you tried their Matriccina sauce?  It's one of the best red sauces I've ever had, great with any of their fresh pastas.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I've found that whole chickens needs to brine at least over night, but pieces need only a couple of hours.  The longest I've let a chicken brine and still eat it was six day and it was still fine.  But I wouldn't let it go for more than 4 days.

A more scientific discussion is here

Wherein Fat Guy says:

Timing is everything. If you leave meat in a brine too long, it becomes too wet, too mushy, and too salty. I would ignore any advice to brine meat overnight. A couple of hours is more like it, though several factors can come into play to alter the optimum duration.

But what I've found is it really depends on the meat.  A big turkey I like to have brined for at two days up to four or five.  Whereas thin pieces of meat like pork back ribs only need an hour and anything more than a day they become too salty.

Heron, you also asked about what containers to brine in.  In a pinch (and I don't recommend this except for hour or less brines) I've used a stainless steel pot but I'd hate it if the pot became pitted.  For most things I have a whole mess of Tupperware and its relatives.  For back ribs I use a  wide and long one (I'm bringing it to the potluck).  For turkeys and other such large or ungainly meats like goat legs/shanks nothing works better than a plastic food-grade 5 gallon bucket.  I picked mine up at a local home-brew shop but another great place is Pacific Food Imports on sixth, directly east of Safeco Field.  They have a lot of used olive brine buckets for free, both the 5 gallon variety and smaller ones as well, but most of them don't have lids.  A friend of mine has also used garbage bags and placed them in a large stock pot.  And at some point, we've all used ziplock bags as well.

Oh yeah, always refrigerate your brining meat so keep that in mind before you put your turkey in the 5 gal. bucket and realize you don't have the room in the frige.  One Thanksgiving I was lucky though and it was cold enough outside to leave it in the backyard.  So far nobody's died and that was a year and a half ago.

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I've also brined big turkeys in a cooler with a bag of ice (kept n the bag to minimize brine dilution) tossed on top. Another method is sealing the brine and brinee in an oven bag (or big heavy-duty ziplock) and putting that on ice in the cooler.

Jim

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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damn!  That's a good idea.  I do a lot of 'que when I visit my folks cottage in Upper Michigan and we barely have enough room for food in the our two refrigerators let alone more room for lots of extra brining chickens.  That'll help a lot.

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The chicken breasts with breadcrumbs and parmesan dish Col. Klink mentioned comes from good old Julia, btw--from Mastering the Art of Frenck Cooking, vol. 1 I believe.  It's a variation of one of her master recipes.  Look for the "brown butter sauce" recipe.  It's been a family favorite of ours for years, though of course we find we add far more butter and lemon juice than the recipe calls for!  It's even gone so far as to replace the more traditional Christmas dinners, since we're of the "let's do as little work on Christmas as possible but still eat good" philosophy.

Batgrrrl

"Shameful or not, she harbored a secret wish

for pretty, impractical garments."

Barbara Dawson Smith

*Too Wicked to Love*

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  • 5 months later...

Batgrrrl and I went Le Pichet on Saturday night (finally) and ordered the roast chicken. It was absolutely fantastic and at the time, I told the group next to us that it's difficult to describe without using expletives. I have no problems saying that their chicken is the best chicken I ever ordered.

Mamster, after trying it, I believe I could do even better and I can't wait to try. It's not that often that somebody excites you about chicken. First about the dish, it was served in a soup bowl with a half-spicy basque style sweet pepper red sauce with onions, sweet peppers, sliced ham, fennel and 3 or 4 of the most delightful small black olives. They did an excellent job of slicing out the breasts and placed them on top of the legs on top of the sauce. Of course the skin was the best part. The chicken was never cooked with the sauce.

I believe the cooking process went a little something like this:

Rub butter and A LOT of salt (the smaller the grain the better) on the skin and roast at a high temperature, when the breasts are done, carve them out and hold for the legs to finish cooking. Other than that, they probably used an expensive free range hippy chicken. If they would brine the chicken first, Le Pichet would have a line around the block and other diners ready to start looting.

We started off with two appetizers, the terrine of beef shank on a bed of blanched string beans and radishes with a horseradish vinaigrette and an escargot dish with some nuts, prosciutto and white beans served in a cast-iron pan. We thought the terrine was better, yum, beef jello. We shared a demi-pichet of a Spanish wine that started with a g. Batgrrrl, do you still have the list of wines we had?

We had another demi-pichet of a spicier wine that wasn't on the menu with the chicken. Both wines were dynamite and beautifully paired with the food. All in all I can't remember the last time that I've felt justified in spending that much at a restaurant that isn't serving sushi nor being so inspired to start cooking myself.

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We shared a demi-pichet of a Spanish wine that started with a g. Batgrrrl, do you still have the list of wines we had?

I do indeed--the first was a 2000 Guelbenzu Azul, a nice, rich, spicy red reminiscent of a Fond Cronz (sp?) but more complicated. The second, which we had with the chicken, was a 1999 Domaine le Clos de Caveau Vacqueryras, which was drier and had more "bite" do it, so it paired very nicely with the chicken.

Batgrrrl

"Shameful or not, she harbored a secret wish

for pretty, impractical garments."

Barbara Dawson Smith

*Too Wicked to Love*

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It sounds like your version of the roast chicken was rather different form ours. Our was served on plates with an armagnac cream sauce and, if I remember right, sauteed fennel. I suppose they change up the sauce and presentation every couple of months. Yours sounds great, too. If you can do better, let me know what time to be at your house.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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No, the sauce was added to the dish. I don't think the breast was separated from the leg, as you describe it, either. It looked like we each had half the chicken (not an entire half, a leg and breast) and it was all attached to each other. Forgive my lack of terminology; I don't know anything about carving.

Hungry Monkey May 2009
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My brother-in-law taught me a good trick to achieve the desired crispy skin. It sounds scary, but you crank the oven up to about 500 and put the chicken in for 15-20 minutes, then turn it down to about 300 'til its done. You need to have a good exhaust fan to avoid smoking up you kitchen though.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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yum yum I gotta agree with the assessment. I had the roast chicken at Le Pichet this spring and found it to be fabulous, and yes, would say its the best chicken dish I've ever had in a restaurant. I usually don't order chicken when I eat out, I tend to order things I wouldn't/couldn't make at home that easily. But the chicken there has a rep so I tried it and wasn't disappointed. Mine came with the armagnac sauce. really great!

Born Free, Now Expensive

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My brother-in-law taught me a good trick to achieve the desired crispy skin.  It sounds scary, but you crank the oven up to about 500 and put the chicken in for 15-20 minutes, then turn it down to about 300 'til its done.  You need to have a good exhaust fan to avoid smoking up you kitchen though.

Another trick is to let the fowl (cornish, duck, turkey, chicken, etc) dry over night in the fridge by putting it on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet after you've brined it. Of course, you need lots of space in your fridge, but it makes the skin crackle when you roast it.

regards,

trillium

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  • 2 weeks later...

Last night I did the first of at least a couple of experiments trying to better the Le Pichet roast chicken as I had stated earlier. Well I came close, the meat was easily better than Le Pichet's and I even cooked it up to 172 degrees F, like they would have to do. Unfortunately the skin did not crisp as I would have liked, though it was still pretty good.

First I brined it over night with the usual brine of apple cider vinegar, salt, brown sugar and hot sauce. I let it dry for 45 minutes, dusted the skin with cayenne and then salted the skin with Kosher salt. I threw it in a 500 degrees F oven for 15 minutes and then brought the temp down to 250. After an hour it was finished though I was hoping more for about 2 hours.

I intended to use my Le Cruset dutch oven and since I wanted good, all over crisping, I choose a low rising baking pan to get maximum exposure. This allowed me to work on the rest of the dish in the Le Cruset. I picked some fresh mint and spicey basil from the garden (two sprigs each, and each with small leaves so there wasn't much). I fried three pieces of bacon and eventually added an minced onion and five cubed red potatoes, herbs, 8 cloves of garlic (whole), some salt, about 20 peppercorns, a good pinch of red pepper flakes, five or six spicey pickled peppers (not sure of the variety), a tbsp of olive oil and finally about a cup and a half of dry vermouth. The chicken was placed on top of everything and the lid was placed on top.

I believe that was my biggest mistake. By having the top on, the chicken was then steamed for an hour, thus softening up the skin. Next time I won't place the lid on and I will try crisping the skin at the end instead of the beginning. Ordinarily that would be a pain in the tokhes, but with the new thermocouple temp sensors that you leave in the meat, it'll be no problem. Just set the temp alarm to 150 (maybe 155) and then finish the bird at 450-500.

All in all it was a fine meal, the taters and onions went well and the vermouth made for a nice sauce. Both the legs and the breasts were evenly cooked tasted great. The leg skin was not as bronzed as the breasts (duh) so next time I'll probably carve up the legs and give them a separate stint at 500 F.

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Last night I did the first of at least a couple of experiments trying to better the Le Pichet roast chicken as I had stated earlier. Well I came close, the meat was easily better than Le Pichet's and I even cooked it up to 172 degrees F, like they would have to do. Unfortunately the skin did not crisp as I would have liked, though it was still pretty good.

Oh sure, you conVEEEENiently wait until I'm out of town to do this! When you know I'm stuck without good access to a grocery store!

b-gal

"Shameful or not, she harbored a secret wish

for pretty, impractical garments."

Barbara Dawson Smith

*Too Wicked to Love*

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  • 1 month later...

Finally!

Katie and I went last night with great success. It was our first time there (not technically since I went for a drink one time) and we had a great time. We spoke with a nice lady about going to cooking classes at Le Gourmand.

We started off with a bowl of Onion Soup, which was very nice, but not amazing. We had a nice white wine that I currently forget the name of. It had a nice acidity and flavors of pears and apples. It went quite well with our roast chicken.

We kept eating bread that was magically refilled quite often while we waited for the chicken. The chicken was roasted and prepared with apples and a cider reduction sauce. It was beautiful. The meat was very flavorful and succulent. The skin was nicely seasoned and crispy. I would have wished that the frites were a little thicker though, they were merely a distraction.

After our lovely experience with the chicken we decided to have Chocolat au chocolat or european style hot chocolate to finish us off. It was just an over the top cup of incredibly rich chocolate with a huge dalop of whipped cream on the side so you could control how much you get with each bite. The chocolate was so thick it was like eating a chocolate soup. I would love to hear if anybody has a recipe for it.

I know I will be going back...go Le Pichet.

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Ben-

The Spanish Table (store at the hillclimb and Western) has powdered chocolate drink mixes that cook up almost to pudding. I've tried one brand, in a white bag, that has good flavor, but could be richer - or I could be adding too little mix (instructions are in Spanish) or it would help if I used whole milk or cream! Excellent treat for the wintery days ahead.

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The Le Pichet roast chicken is being demo'd at Seattle Cooks. Tickets are available at Larry's and I assume there is an online schedule at www.Seattlecooks.com

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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