I first learned of Poulet Rouge in the Roberta's cookbook. The French breed of chicken is ideal for roasting and grilling, prized for its well-distributed fat content, which keeps the meat juicy and flavorful. I'm sure that Poulet Rouge chickens are wonderful, but I didn't manage to order one in time to test this recipe. What I did use is a free-range heritage bird from my (excellent) grocery store. It is also flavorful and heavy on the dark meat—a sign of a happy outdoor bird. I think it worked well.
Roberta's chef Carlo Mirarchi cooks the chicken in two steps: he starts it whole in a hot oven before separating the legs from the breast and sticking it all on the grill. This (admittedly laborious) process results in perfectly cooked leg and breast meat, infused with smoke from the grill. Around the chicken are pieces of roasted Japanese turnips, buttery Savoy cabbage drizzled with maple syrup, and thin rounds of spicy black radish.
Why I picked this recipe: Even a wild goose (er, chicken) chase couldn't keep me from wanting to try this comforting poultry dish.
What worked: Despite all of the steps, this dish is easy to execute and the final plate is well-balanced.
What didn't: The recipe text says to leave the turnips whole, but the photograph shows quartered turnips. I sliced mine in half so that the cut side could get well-caramelized in the oven.
Suggested tweaks: If you can't entertain the thought of grilling right now, you can finish the whole dish in the oven. I'd recommend still separating the legs from the breast to make sure that both are cooked properly. I've found that the legs from heritage chickens often need more cooking than standard chickens to soften the connective tissue. Skipping the grill, however, does mean that you will lose the smoky flavor notes.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.