Validating my cookbook collection, one damn recipe at at a time

14: Tarragon French Roast Chicken — How to Eat

14: Tarragon French Roast Chicken — How to Eat

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.
It was only this year that it was brought to my attention that the joke doesn’t have a mere “duh” punchline; that the chicken was crossing the road in order to get hit by a car AND DIE — i.e. “to get to the other side.”

Only took me over 30 years to figure it out.

But on the topic at hand, I almost feel like I cheated this week. I didn’t but I feel like I did.

Because this past weekend, I decided I NEEDED roast chicken.
Do you ever just NEED roast chicken? I do.
(Here’s where I ramble about roast chicken, Pinoffee Pie, movie screeners, and more.)

So I changed up my original plan for this book, which was the Victoria Sponge (because the Great British Bake Off/Baking Show is LIFE), and my francophile ass dove straight after this recipe.

The Assignment: Tarragon French Roast Chicken from How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by Nigella Lawson  

First off, what a bomb title. This header lures you in like, “Hey, I love to eat. Don’t you love to eat? I’m gonna show you how to get the good stuff. Are you gonna have to cook? Yeah, sure, but don’t worry about it — focus on the feast, babay!” It’s not simple collection of recipes; Nigella is dropping knowledge all over the place here.

And lookit Nigella Lawson. She’s 58 and looks like a million bucks. There’s a damn reason she wrote a book called How to Be a Domestic Goddess. THAT’S JUST HER. Making good food, not too overwrought, but like a damn goddess.

(Heads up: The book appears to have had a few different covers from different printings.)

The Recipe (directly from the book, which you should buy):

Things to Note About the Recipe:

This recipe says to use a roasting rack. Do I have a roasting rack? I do not, despite my love for roast chicken. I just never got around to it. I checked Target to see if I could pick one up there; only if I want to buy a whole-ass roasting pan with it! Non, Madam Targét, pas aujourd’hui. So I looked up what to do in the absence of an actual rack. I made a coil of foil in its place. Pas de problème, n’est-ce pas?

Also, this recipe indicates one should cook two chickens, as it’s part of a lunch-for-8 menu in the book (which pairs with a lemon pie, and sounds DIVINE). But it’s just me here. I don’t need more than one chicken at a time. So I halved the recipe for the most part, except for the broth, which I reduced from 2 cups to 1 1/2 cups. That was a bad move. Don’t do that. My drippings got a bit over-browned in the pan due to having less broth to begin with AND the fact that a lot of the drippings got held up in the coil of foil while it all cooked, leaving the drippings on the edges (including a lot of the tarragon butter) to dry out and burn. Quel dommage. It’s cool though, I was still able to salvage a decent little sauce; added a bit of white wine, a sploosh of white wine vinegar, and a pinch of cornstarch on the cook-down.

The biggest problem I have with this recipe is that she doesn’t mention adding salt until the absolute last line of the directions. YOU NEED TO SALT THAT CHICKEN. You can literally skip every single other thing in this recipe and get a fairly decent roast chicken. BUT YOU NEED TO SALT THAT CHICKEN. She adds unsalted butter and white pepper to that guy, but never mentions salting it? NIGELLA. I refuse to play the rules straight on this point. Salt is basically my religion. Salt the fuck out of your chicken before you put it in the oven. That’s all. (Also, I probably would have salted the compound butter too if I’d been thinking clearly.)



How did it taste?

It tasted very much like a roast chicken, which means it was what I was looking for. Was it the best I ever had? Nope. Was the tarragon butter under the skin a game changer? Not really, but I’m interested to try this technique with a more potently flavorful butter mix. Seeing as I tend to roast chicken sans recipe pretty damn often, I was neither terribly impressed nor terribly disappointed with this recipe.

Would I make this again?

Probably not. BUT that’s mostly because I like playing fast and loose with my roast chicken prep.

Do I recommend this cookbook?

Sure! If you’re a seasoned cook who’s already got the basics well covered, maybe not. But if you’re any sort of novice or just want to get a better handle on the essentials from someone who’s going to talk like a person and not like a Michelin-starred chef de cuisine, this is a great reference. It’s also a book I really enjoy reading from because of Nigella’s wonderful personality and occasionally goofy ease that shines on through.

What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?

The goddamned Victoria sponge that I was planning to make to freaking begin with! How am I ever going to get myself on the Great British Baking Show if I can’t make a damn Victoria sponge?!


I have a roasting rack waiting in the Save for Later section of my Amazon cart for next time.

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