With the price of beef skyrocketing, the search for alternatives is on in earnest. A logical candidate is chicken-less expensive and less fattening.
Chicken is also incredibly versatile. The New Larousse Gastronomique devotes more pages to chicken than to beef, lamb or veal. Nearly 10 percent of the 3,000 recipes in the Escoffier Cook Book involve chicken (or one of its French cousins).
Somewhat intimidated by such obvious proof that others had given so much thought before me to cooking chicken, I decided to try my hand at a few original recipes. One of two were discreetly dumped. The two most successful are reproduced below. One is a roast chicken with a tang and flavor reminiscent of Southeast Asian cooking. The other is a simple poached chicken. Its sauce has a distinctly Roquefort flavor, but is not heavy.
POACHED CHICKEN WITH ROQUEFORT SAUCE
(3 or 4 servings) 1 chicken (3 1/2 or 4 pounds), trussed, with excess fat removed Chicken broth or stock to submerge chicken 4 ounces Roquefort (or other quality blue cheese) 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) milk 2 tablespoons butter 2 ounces heavy cream 2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated or diced 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper 1 teaspoon salt
Put stock in pot just large enough to hold it and the chicken and bring to a boil. Submerge chicken in pot, taking care to fill air vent so chicken does not float. Partially cover and reduce heat so that bubbles occasionally break surface.
After about 50 minutes (about 10 minutes before chicken will be done) mash Roquefort in a skillet. Add milk and butter and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, until mixture is creamy. Add Gruyere cheese, cream, pepper and salt and continue cooking slowly, stirring. When mixture is smooth, just before it boils, turn off heat.
When done (when juices run clear or a meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees) remove chicken from pot, taking care to drain cavity. Cut into quarters or other sized pieces for serving. Serve Roquefort sauce on side, spooning over chicken and boiled white rice.
French or California chardonnay or a red, such as a light California Zinfandel, is a suitable wine.
ROASTED CHICKEN ORIENTAL
(3 or 4 servings) 1 chicken (3 1/2 or 4 pounds) trussed, with excess fat removed 12 almonds 4 medium cloves garlic 4 tablespoons black soy sauce 4 tablespoons peanut oil 4 tablespoons sesame oil 1 1/2 teaspoons tumeric 1 tablespoon seasame seeds 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Put almonds and garlic in a food processor or blender and grind to a paste. Put mixture in a bowl large enough to hold chicken comfortably. Add soy sauce, peanut oil, sesame oil, tumeric, seasame seeds and cayenne and mix thoroughly. Add chicken, let it marinate for about 2 hours, turning occasionally.
Heat oven to 450 degrees
Put chicken on a meat rack, breast up, and cook for 15 minutes. Turn to one side, brush with some of the excess marinade and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Repeat on other side. If chicken is not done, again brush with marinade and return to oven for a few minutes. Dish goes especially well with Basumati (Indian) rice.
The chicken can be eaten with beer or a full-bodied wine, such as a Gewertztraminer or Cote duRhone.