After winning $1 million as the first-prize recipient in the 2006 Pillsbury Bake-Off for her recipe for baked chicken and spinach stuffing, stay-at-home mom Anna Ginsberg went on The Oprah Winfrey Show to cook her award-winning dish for the big O.
In the clip, which has gone viral multiple times since it first aired, Winfrey tosses some not-so-subtle shade at Ginsberg’s chicken after taking a bite. “I do like it,” she said after chewing and pausing to select her words. “I like it very much… Did we add salt and pepper? I think we needed salt and pepper.”
For a dish that does not lack proper seasoning, we prefer Dan Silverman’s “Million Dollar Chicken” from The Standard Grill in New York City. Along with offerings like a a Demi-Vache rib eye and a chocolate mousse dish dubbed The Deal Closer, Million Dollar Chicken was basically a must-order every night for customers and even got a mention in a one-star review of the restaurant from NYT critic Pete Wells in 2009.
Seeking to get The Standard back on the map after changes both big and small at the restaurant, New Zealand chef Jean-Paul Lourdes dipped into his vault of experience to come up with a fresh take on Million Dollar chicken and put it back on the menu following a hiatus.
“In New York City, roast chicken is a thing. Lafayette does one. Barbuto does one. The Standard’s rendition was a chicken that was roasted heavily until the skin was golden brown with a sauce of creme fraiche, lemon, shallots and Aleppo pepper,” Lourdes tells InsideHook. “It was served on a piece of sourdough that was meant to absorb all the juices of the chicken and the sauce. Everyone wanted the Standard to kind of go back to its heyday when it was at its peak. We didn’t necessarily want to do a new rendition, but we use a slightly different process with it and our garnish is a bit different. But fundamentally, the flavor profile is classic Million Dollar Chicken.”
For Lourdes, what makes the Standard’s chicken (a half bird is $30) taste like a million bucks is the Aleppo pepper. “I personally love the flavor profile of Aleppo pepper. It kind of has an almost tobacco-y kind of characteristic,” he says. “It’s not overly spicy, but it’s kind of gives you the bitterness that some chilies give you, those really earthy acidic tones or flavors. We use preserved lemon in the recipe as well. You have your acidity and the saltiness from the preserved lemon and this kind of tobacco-y taste from the Aleppo pepper. One other thing we do a little differently is taking chicken skin from other chickens roasting it over a long period of time before grinding that down almost to a crumble. Then we mix it with garlic, thyme and shallots that are all fried and crispy as well and sprinkle all of that back over the chicken. It gives it this roast chicken flavor that’s not necessarily only coming from the chicken itself.”
Although Million Dollar Chicken may sound fancy, that roast chicken flavor is really all the Standard is going for.
“A roast chicken is something everyone can relate to. I mean, everyone’s bought a roast chicken from a grocery store at some point,” Lourdes says. “It’s delicious, pleases a lot of people, attracts a wide audience and it’s relatively easy to cook. There aren’t different temperatures. It’s either cooked or raw. It’s cooked on the bone, it stays moist and is one of those things that is a go-to for a lot of people. We don’t have necessarily the rotisserie, but we try to recreate the cooking process of what a rotisserie chicken would go through at a grocery store. What we’re trying to achieve in the end is just a really high-quality roast chicken.”
Here’s how they do it:
The Standard Grill’s Million Dollar Chicken
- 1 whole, organic chicken
- ½ cup, basic poultry brine
- 90g chicken fat, melted
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
- 120g crème fraiche
- 1 French shallot finely diced
- 30g preserved lemon
- Sea salt
- Preheat a fan-forced oven to 375F.
- Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry.
- Using a kitchen syringe, fill with brine and inject the chicken in multiple places.
- Place in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
- Once the time has elapsed, rub thoroughly with chicken fat, season with sea salt and place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes.
- When the internal temperature is 125F, increase the oven temp to 450F and cook until golden brown until the internal temp is 165F.
- Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest. The temperature will continue to increase to 165F.
- To make the sauce, mix the remaining ingredients together in a small pot and heat them until the mixture is gently simmering.
- Pour over chicken to serve.
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