Main Dish

Million Dollar Chicken

million-dollar-chicken

I ‘ve been wanting to try cooking with crème fraîche for quite some time. I was so excited when a thoughtful friend gave me some gorgeous local crème fraîche last month as a holiday gift. She remembered me drooling over it at the farmers’ market last summer. But then there was the holiday whirlwind, then I got sick, & there it sat. (Sorry, Claudia!) But the good news is that it lasts weeks in the fridge, so I was good to go last night! This stuff is simply gorgeous. Thick, creamy, smooth. Wow. I’ve read that in a pinch, you can substitute sour cream for crème fraîche. Don’t. I’m here to tell you, this stuff is amazing. It’s well worth the hunt to find some. If you truly can’t ever get your hands on the real thing, only then would I say go ahead & substitute. But you’ll be missing out! I’ve also read that you can freeze it, which is good for me. I pushed the “best by” date to its limit, & had a lot left over, so into the freezer it went. I’ll just have to whisk it vigorously after thawing to restore its texture. 

Crème fraîche is similar to, but not the same as, sour cream & yogurt. Similar in that they all start with dairy and each adds a form of culture. Different in that they all use different cultures, and crème fraîche has a higher fat content. It’s tangy, but not as sour as sour cream. I always thought it odd that a cultured product would be called “fresh cream.” Wikipedia had the answer. The full name in French is crème fraîche épaisse or fermentéeFresh cream is crème fraîche liquide or fleurette, or simply crème fraîche. I only had a year of French in college, so if any French-speakers out there want to correct me, please do! 

I chose a recipe from The Barefoot Contessa (originally from the Standard Grill) to start with, and modified it just a bit. I skipped the overnight part, thinking it probably unnecessary because there already would be plenty of flavor. I also used a bigger chicken, because we love leftovers. (Note that if you use a smaller chicken, it will affect your cooking time). It really was quite delicious!

I found it rather tedious using my Microplane to grate the shallot. I did half that way, and half using a box grater. Okay, it was a piece of a broken box grater. I really need to replace that, I just haven’t decided which one I want. Still, you get the idea. The Microplane basically gave me purée, and I could tell that my fairly large shallot would just barely give me enough. The box grater gave me a slightly chunkier result, and I had a little shallot left over. I think I like the Microplane results better, because it keeps a uniform texture to the sauce. Plus, I love shallots. But it is a bit slow & tedious. I think you could use a mini food processor to mince or purée the shallot, with nearly identical results. I think that’s what I’ll try next time. 

Next time I make it, I will also add one other modification (which is reflected in the recipe below.) The original recipe calls for just chucking the squeezed lemon halves as-is into the chicken cavity. I found, though, that this completely stuffed the chicken, which slowed the cooking of the deeper meat to an unacceptable degree. (Yes, I took into account that my chicken was bigger). Usually you test doneness by inserting your thermometer in the dark meat since it takes longer than the white. But when the legs were done, the deeper white meat was still way too pink & cool. From now on, I’ll cut up the lemon halves to leave a little more room for the hot oven air. You can find the original recipes here: Contessa and Allrecipes, and a printer friendly version of mine at the bottom of this page. 

Ingredients:

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1 fresh whole chicken, 5-6 pounds

2 lemons

3 cloves garlic (Yes, I forgot the garlic for the photo. Again.)

½-1 bunch fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

3 thick slices of day-old sourdough bread

1 cup crème fraîche

1 large shallot

1 tsp Aleppo pepper

salt & pepper

Preparation:

1.) Preheat the oven to 450°F. Choose a  small roasting pan, or other oven-safe pan that will accommodate your chicken. Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil in the bottom. Put your bread slices on the oil. Pressing lightly, move them around so that both the pan bottom and the bottom of the bread slices are coated with the oil.

2.) Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with salt & pepper. Cut 1 lemon in half, and squeeze the juice into the chicken cavity. Slice the lemon halves, and place in the cavity. Slightly smash the garlic cloves, and add to the cavity. Add the thyme & bay leaf. Re-arrange the cavity contents as needed to allow a bit of air circulation. Tie the legs together with butchers’ twine.

3.) Place the chicken in the pan, on top of the bread slices. Drizzle the chicken with a little more olive oil. Pop the pan in the oven, and roast for about 1½ hours, depending on the size of your bird.

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4.) Once the chicken is in the oven, begin preparing the sauce. Peel the shallot, and grate 1 Tbsp from it. Zest the lemon for 1 tsp zest, then juice the lemon.

Place the crème fraîche in a medium bowl. Add the shallot, lemon zest, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and the Aleppo pepper. Whisk to combine, and pop it in the fridge until you’re ready for it.  (Here’s where I took a minute out to freeze the rest of my container of crème fraîche.)

5.) At the end of the 1½ hours, the chicken should be nearly done. Remove the pan from the oven. Lift up the chicken, or move it to a plate, & use tongs to turn the bread slices over. They’re getting beautifully brown, & crispy on the pan side. Replace the chicken on the bread. Slather some of the sauce over the chicken, letting it drip down a bit into the bread. Return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes.

6.) Remove the pan, and slather the chicken again. (No need to flip the bread again.) Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

7.) While the chicken finishes cooking, heat a small skillet on medium. Add the remaining sauce. Stirring constantly, cook until it reduces a bit. This doesn’t take long at all, so don’t walk away from it. Remove from heat.

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8.) When the chicken is done, remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a platter, and let it rest five to ten minutes before carving. Meanwhile, cut the bread slices in half. They’ve absorbed lots of chicken juice & sauce, and are nice & crispy on the outside. Serve the chicken with the bread slices and sauce.

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There are far too many variables in this recipe for me to take a stab at creating a nutrition chart. How big is the chicken, & how much fat does it have? How much of the rendered fat ends up soaked into the bread? How thick are your slices, & how big was the loaf? What percent butterfat is your crème fraîche? So let’s just say this: The bread is soaking up chicken fat and the crème fraîche can have up to 40% butterfat. I don’t think this recipe is cardiologist-approved!

Million Dollar Chicken

Ingredients


1 fresh whole chicken, 5-6 pounds
2 lemons
3 cloves garlic (Yes, I forgot the garlic for the photo. Again.)
½-1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bay
2-3 Tbsp OO
3 thick slices of day-old sourdough bread
1 cup crème fraîche
1 large shallot
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
salt & pepper

Directions


1.) Preheat the oven to 450°F. Choose a  small roasting pan, or other oven-safe pan that will accommodate your chicken. Drizzle 1 Tbsp in the bottom. Put your bread slices on the oil. Pressing lightly, move them around so that both the pan bottom and the bottom of the bread slices are coated with the oil.
2.) Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with salt & pepper. Cut 1 lemon in half, and squeeze the juice into the chicken cavity. Slice the lemon halves, and place in the cavity. Slightly smash the garlic cloves, and add to the cavity. Add the thyme & bay leaf. Re-arrange the cavity contents as needed to allow a bit of air circulation. Tie the legs together with butchers’ twine.
3.) Place the chicken in the pan, on top of the bread slices. Drizzle the chicken with a little more olive oil. Pop the pan in the oven, and roast for 1 hour.
4.) About halfway through the hour, prepare the sauce. Peel the shallot, and grate 1 Tbsp from it. Zest the lemon for 1 tsp zest, then juice the lemon. Place the crème fraîche in a medium bowl. Add the shallot, lemon zest, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and the Aleppo pepper. Whisk to combine.
5.) At the end of the hour,remove the pan from the oven. Lift up the chicken, or move it to a plate, & use tongs to turn the bread slices over. Replace the chicken on the bread. Slather some of the sauce over the chicken, letting it drip down a bit into the bread. Return the pan to the oven for 15 minutes.
6.) Remove the pan, and slather the chicken again. Return to the oven for another 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your bird.
7.) While the chicken finishes cooking, heat a small skillet on medium. Add the remaining sauce. Stirring constantly, cook until it reduces a bit. Remove from heat.
8.) When the chicken is done, remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a platter, and let it rest five to ten minutes before carving. Meanwhile, cut the bread slices in half. Serve the chicken with the bread slices and sauce.

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