Julia Child's Poulet Poele a l'Estragon (Casserole-Roasted Chicken with Tarragon)

I can't believe it's been a whole year since my last blog about this topic, but it's time again to honor the birthday of on of my chef heroes, Julia Child. Her birthday is August 15th, and just as last year I decided to make something special in her memory. Last year I made her savory mustard marinade for chicken and pork, done with loin chops. This year I decided to go a little more extravagant with a full-on roasted chicken. This chicken is special, because it features an herb that quite honestly seems to be overlooked quite often. The herb is tarragon, which has a fresh anise flavor. The method of cooking this chicken is unique because you first brown it on all sides, then roast it along with vegetables sauteed in the chicken drippings. This helps the skin from looking too flabby once cooked in the casserole. I couldn't help but feel a distinct French vibe as I the fragrance of the chicken, tarragon, and vegetables filled my kitchen. And yes, I did roast a chicken on a 97 degree day. It may be crazy, but anything for a good meal, right?

I even took an extra trip to go to a local butcher's shop to buy fresh, local chicken instead of just getting one from the supermarket. I felt that Julia would appreciate this extra step...

I didn't do anything too involved to truss the chicken (ie: chicken bondage to help it cook more evenly). After the cavity of the chicken was filled, I just used some cotton butcher's string and criss-crossed the legs. I also wrapped the string around the legs around the tail nub, then finished with bow. Sometimes chickens have the tails removed or are really small, so you can't always do this. I also pulled the wing in the opposite direction so they held tight across the back. I don't think it's necessary to do any involved trussing because the casserole method pretty much ensures even cooking. I do want to comment that you should be sure to use cotton butcher's string. You don't want to use some questionable string and end up having melted plastic in your food a la Bridget Jones's Diary, where she used blue plastic string and ended up with blue soup!

Another thing to note is that I in no way needed all the oil and butter recommended in the recipe. I'm sure Julia would disagree with me, but I regulated the temperature while browning the chicken well enough that I didn't need to use more butter when browning the vegetables.

*Be sure to save the chicken bones after the chicken is cooked. I save several chicken's worth of bones in zip-lock bags that I store in the freezer to make broth. Also, do you see all those amazing juices from the chicken and vegetables mingling with the melted butter? Save those for your broth, use them for a sauce, or serve them as jus with the sliced chicken! Those pan drippings are full of flavor!

Edit: please check out the food blog Champaign Taste for a view of other great Julia Child recipes contributed by other food bloggers in CT's 5th Annual Julia Child Birthday Celebration!

Julia Child's Poulet Poele a l'Estragon (Casserole-Roasted Chicken with Tarragon)
Printable Recipe

1 3-lb roasting chicken
7 tbsp butter (I only used a scant 3), divided
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried tarragon, or 8 fresh springs, divided
3/4 tsp salt, divided
pinch black pepper
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/4 cup sliced carrots

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Add one of the tbsp of butter into the cavity of the chicken, then sprinkle in 1/4 tsp salt, some pepper, and 1/2 tsp tarragon. Truss the chicken.
3. Heat 2 tbsp of the butter and the oil in the casserole dish over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides; regulate the temperature so that the butter doesn't brown too much. Set the browned chicken aside.
4. Add the vegetables to the chicken drippings and butter mixture. If the butter became too browned, drain the grease away and add the 2 tbsp fresh butter, then add the vegetables. Sweat the vegetables over low heat with the remaining tarragon, 1/4 tsp salt, and some pepper.
5. Set the chicken breast-side up on top of the cooked vegetables, then sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper and dot with the remaining butter.
6. Roast for 1 hour and 10-to-20 minutes until the chicken is opaque and the juices run clear.

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