Sometimes Citrin even roasts chicken with hay he purchases at a local feed store. He lines the bottom of one of those heavy casseroles with the aromatic grass and adds just enough water to keep it from charring. He nestles the whole chicken on top, covers it tightly with a sealed lid and roasts it in a 350-degree oven.
"It gets a light smoky flavor that way," Citrin says. "It's really delicious."
That is a traditional French farmhouse technique, but he learned it from Alain Passard, chef at the three-star restaurant l'Arpege in Paris. It seems this prejudice against chicken is an American thing.
"In France, everyone has chicken on the menu," Citrin says. There's the famous Bresse chicken, of course. "Georges Blanc has chicken on the menu all the time. There's that classic poularde en vessie, where the chicken is cooked inside a pig's bladder. I think that started with Fernand Point, then Alain Chapel did it, and I know Alain Ducasse does it too."
But, says the guy with the $84 roast chicken, "that's one I don't think I could get away with."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Going for the flavor
WHEN it comes to supermarket chicken, you get what you pay for. That's the lesson we learned in a tasting of half a dozen chickens cooked last week in The Times Test Kitchen.
We pan-roasted the chicken breasts using Josiah Citrin's method and found a marked difference in flavor and texture between the premium chickens, such as Rocky the Range Chicken and Smart Chicken, and the lesser-priced birds, even those labeled "natural" or "kosher."
The more expensive birds, which ranged in price from $4.69 to $5.99 per pound for breasts, had much fuller flavor and much meatier texture than their less expensive counterparts, which cost between $1.49 and $2.99 per pound. The textures of the lower-priced birds tended to be much softer, almost rubbery, and the flavor was -- to put it most charitably -- neutral.
On the other hand, the birds labeled "organic" fared no better than the free-range birds. In fact, when comparing standard and organic chickens from the same producers (both Smart Chicken and Rocky have organic counterparts), our tasting panel unanimously favored the slightly less expensive standard free-range chickens (both of which are raised without hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics).
Smart Chicken, $4.69 per pound. Full chicken flavor and meaty texture. Huge portion (one breast weighed more than half a pound). Available at Whole Foods Markets and Vicente Foods.
Rocky the Range Chicken, $5.99 per pound. Very good flavor and appealing texture. Available at Whole Foods Markets and Bristol Farms.
Smart Chicken "Organic," $5.99 per pound. Very good flavor and texture, though perhaps slightly dryer than Smart Chicken and Rocky the Range Chicken. Available at Whole Foods Markets and Vicente Foods.
Rosie Free Range Chicken "Organic," $5.99 per pound. Good texture but a little more neutral in flavor than Smart Chicken and Rocky the Range Chicken. Available at Whole Foods Markets, Bristol Farms and Gelson's.
Aaron's Best Kosher Chicken, $2.39 per pound. Slightly rubbery texture, neutral flavor. Available at Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's "Natural" Chicken, $1.49 per pound (whole chicken). Soft, slightly rubbery texture and a neutral flavor. Available at Trader Joe's.
Foster Farms, $2.99 per pound. Dry, not much meat, fairly flavorless. Widely available.
-- Russ Parsons
Herb- and lemon-stuffed rotisserie chicken
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4
Note: From Josiah Citrin. Look for preserved lemons at Indian markets.
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped summer savory
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon peel (or 3 tablespoons finely chopped lemon zest)
1 (4-pound) roasting chicken, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon melted butter
1. Heat the rotisserie according to the manufacturer's instructions. Mix the parsley, thyme, savory, chervil and lemon peel together in a small bowl. Using your fingers, slide the mixture under the skin of the chicken breasts. Be sure to distribute evenly. Season the chickens with salt and pepper inside and out.
2. Truss the chicken with kitchen twine. Place the chicken on the rotisserie and cook for 50 minutes or until the breast meat is done. While the chicken is cooking, baste with the melted butter about every 10 minutes.
3. When the breast meat is done (when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, the meat feels firm or the juices run clear) remove the chicken from the rotisserie and cut the trussing. Remove the legs and thighs and return them to the rotisserie basket or roast them on a baking sheet in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes more.
4. Keep the rest of the chicken warm, wrapped in aluminum foil in the oven at 200 degrees, while you prepare the plates. Use the breasts to make rotisserie chicken breasts with roasted chicken jus and the dark meat to make chicken legs with heirloom tomato salad or simply carve and serve.