Child's Play

This has to be the coolest cookbook I have ever been given. What could be better than a cookbook for children... in French?!

My friend Heather had this in her collection, and somehow knew I would love it for its perfect existence, and because I would actually cook from it.

"Children and poets like to disobey. If you are mean,
disobey and be good. If you chew your nails, disobey and
eat the good food painted by Michel Oliver.
Your old friend, Jean Cocteau, advises you. 1963"
The cover alone captured my heart, but when I discovered the introduction was written by Jean Cocteau, I was amazed. Seriously, how cool is that?

I promptly flipped through, making mental notes of which recipes I would make. I stopped looking when I got to the salt-roasted chicken.

I've been served - and made - salt-roasted fish before, and it was really quite good, but using this method for a chicken? Well, why not?

When I made salt-roasted whole fish, the salt crust was made with salt and egg whites. Not a difficult recipe by any means, by this salt-roasted chicken really is child's play.

Quite simply, you put the chicken in the pot on a bed of salt, put salt around its sides, then cover it with salt. Cover and bake, and - voilà! - a truly succulent bird!

No, the skin is not browned and beautiful, but we aren't supposed to be eating that anyway, right? The meat is incredibly moist and flavorful - perfect served as a roast, and a great method for getting perfectly-cooked meat for chicken salads, Crumble au Poulet, or sandwiches.

I served this with a chilled bottle of 2015 Rosé de Léoube, which I found on sale. It was a terrific pairing and I am grateful to Jérôme Pernot, of Château Léoube for telling me that roasted chicken was a good choice for his wine. You can read more about this pairing on the Provence WineZine.

As you can see, I served this with sautéed haricots verts and Madeira-braised carrots. If the chicken was lacking in color, the veggies made up for it.

La Cuisine est un Jeu d'Enfants by Michel Oliver is available to buy used online. It is a gem and wonderful for both children and adults.

~ David

Poulet au Sel - Salt-Roasted Chicken
My directions are a bit more detailed than the original source, and slightly adapted from experience...

a 3 1/2 pound chicken, I used an organic fryer
a bouquet of bay, rosemary, and thyme - optional
1 large shallot, quartered - optional
approximately 12 cups coarse salt, I used Morton's kosher salt

Wash and completely dry the chicken. I let mine sit on a rack in the refrigerator uncovered all day as the self-defrosting function of the fridge helps dry the chicken nicely.

If using the herb bouquet and shallot, stuff them into the cavity of the chicken. No need to truss or tie the bird.

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Place 2 cups of salt - I used a tea cup - in the bottom of an oven-proof casserole dish that has a cover. Place the chicken on the bed of salt and then pour 6 more cups of salt around the chicken, making sure there is salt between the chicken and the sides of the casserole. Finally, cover the chicken with 4 more cups of salt. Place the lid on the casserole, and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove the chicken from the casserole. Much of the salt will fall away. Place the salt-crusted chicken on a large cutting board, and break the remaining salt crust with a wooden spoon. Remove and discard the crust. Using a dry pastry brush, carefully brush away any remaining salt, then remove the skin from the bird. Slice off the meat and place on a platter to serve.

Serves 4.

Braised carrots - per request!
This recipe is so easy that I can hardly call it a recipe.

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12-15 baby carrots, multicolored ones are nice
splash of Madeira
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet (that has a tight-fitting lid) and sauté the carrots for a few minutes, shaking the pan frequently to roll the carrots. Add a splash of Madeira and cover tightly, continuing to shake the pan frequently until the carrots are tender and well caramelized on all sides - about 15 minutes.

Serves 2

"Delicately break the salt crust to get the chicken out."

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