Bill Buford Reveals the Secret to Roasting Chicken That Only the French Know

The unexpected charm of the poach-and-roast method

Roast Chicken
What's the best way to cook a perfect roast chicken?
Amy Brothers/Denver Post via Getty Images
By Tobias Carroll / July 27, 2020 11:09 am

There are plenty of paradoxes when it comes to cooking at home. One of them, as Bill Buford points out in a new article for The New Yorker, is the challenge of making roast chicken. Nominally, it’s meant to be a dish that can yield rewarding results when cooked at home. The reality, though, is more complex than that — and it’s led to a host of methods, from strategic use of a hair dryer to creative placement of a beer can, over the years.

Buford’s article makes the case for another method — one that’s quite popular in France. Dubbed “poach-and-roast,” it’s precisely what that term suggests. “It is poached until it is almost cooked through, and finished, as fleetingly as possible, in a hot oven or on a rotisserie, if you’re lucky enough to have one,” Buford writes.

This is a method that was originally used in France for larger fowl; over the years, it has gradually become more and more popular for chicken as well. Buford notes that this technique also has something in common with another popular and time-honored cooking method:

How long have people been poaching their chickens? Not as long as they have been spatchcocking, a method that must date to the discovery of fire. But it’s still an ancient preparation, probably as old as the invention of the pot.

The recipe that Buford provides makes for a compelling-looking meal: the idea of a chicken poached in chicken stock, then roasted until it’s golden brown, sounds utterly delicious. And it might just give you some ideas for your next home-cooked meal.

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