12.13.2009

Louis XV and The Jacquard Chicken

Behold, the HARLEQUIN CHICKEN:

Above, The finished chicken, presented on a faux malachite tray courtesy of my mother.
Originally, I was going to share with you today an image of a chicken from a 1967 House & Garden (reprinted in an issue on "luxury" from September 1998) about a favorite recipe of Louis XV, a truly extravagant chicken that could have passed for op-art, otherwise known as a "Harlequin Chicken."  Despite my intentions, this image never made it into this post, nor even onto my scanner, because at some point while reading, I was suddenly overcome with a feverish NEED to recreate the roaster.

Now, noting that the article offered no guidance for the creation of the bird (other than to say that chefs "hold their breath until the last diamond is put in place"), I can only attribute my infatuation to the odd fact that this struck me as a chicken that LOOKS like a cake, that looks like a chicken.  And what could be splashier at a dinner party than a real bird masquerading as a candy confection mimicking an actual, savory meat dish?!

Louis XV's chefs used boiled and cracked knuckles of veal to create the gelatinous sauce, but (as House & Garden noted in 1967), we now thankfully have lovely packets of gelatin to speed things along.

One Google search for chaudfroid sauce and much experimentation later, I arrived at my own method for making a harlequin chicken, in case you should want to try...

You'll Need:
- 1 small chicken
- 1 3/4 c light cream
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 peppercorns
- 1 TBSP butter
- 2 TBSP flour
- 1 envelope (2 TBSP) gelatin for the sauce
- 1 envelope (2 TBSP) gelatin for the eggplant glaze
- 3 TBSP boiling water
- 1 large eggplant
- salt and pepper to season

What to do:  
1. Roast the chicken in an oven: Pat it dry, remove the innards, truss it, and cook it at 450 degrees for around an hour, uncovered.  Remove, allow to cool, and peel off the skin. Place in refrigerator to chill.

2. Blanche eggplant in a large pot of boiling water, until it's shriveled and soft, around 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the flesh, scrape the skin clean, and cut the skin (carefully, carefully!!!) into a diamond pattern by scoring with a paring knife. Set pieces aside, discard flesh.



3. Mix the cream, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a small saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Turn off heat and let rest 5 minutes.  Strain liquid into a bowl. In a pan, melt the butter.  Add the flour, stirring into a smooth paste.  Slowly add the cream.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer 2 minutes.  Put 3 TBSP boiling water in a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin.  After it's dissolved, stir the gelatin liquid into the cream. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Take out the thoroughly chilled chicken and pour this mixture carefully on top of it.  The goal is to have as thin and even a surface as possible. It might help to have the chicken on the rack and have excess sauce drain into a pan so that it can be reheated. After it's coated, put it back in the refrigerator and chill for around 5-10 minutes, until firm.

5. Repeat this process until the bird is covered in a smooth (or, you know, vaguely smooth) plastic-y layer of aspic béchamel (sounds appetizing, right?). Chill until completely firm. (Side note: does anyone remember those Vivienne Westwood Angolmania banana colored jelly heels with giant black hearts on the toe? For better or worse, the chicken started reminding me of those.)



6. Mix another 3 TBSP boiling water with another packet of gelatin.  Dissolve. Dip the eggplant diamonds into the gelatin mixture (I used a tweezer), coating evenly, and carefully arrange them into a harlequin pattern on the chicken.  At this point, the chicken began to look like it was sporting an argyle sweater:

7.  And finally, fully covered! A word of encouragement- it's not as difficult as you'd think, just leave yourself plenty of time.



All images created, styled, and photographed by (IN)DECOROUS TASTE. Faux malachite serving tray also painted by (IN)DECOROUS TASTE.

30 comments:

Carol said...

Wow, what attention to detail............. I can see this on a tall black glass cake stand, taking pride of place at a black banquet.......... dark red roses black cherries, , silver candelabra, black lace cloths.

Thanks for creating this "how to", amazing. think I will put a post on my blog.

little augury said...

Get Out! amazing little fiendish chef you-beyond impressive. I remember the images-and seeing the picture here-thought what a great treat to see this holiday timewise,But No-you were struck with LXV fever.Brilliant x XV! la

ArchitectDesign™ said...

That is the most amazing thing I've seen in a long time! It would be perfect for a formal Christmas Luncheon (as cold chicken for dinner seems wrong to me).

Style Redux 2 said...

You are mad but in a glorious way. This is a work of art.

Couture Cookie said...

I am speechless... that is the most stylish chicken I've ever seen! :)

home before dark said...

You and your mother are an amazing duo. Nothing is left unadorned. Next thing we'll read is that you two have discovered a way to breed chickens so that they are naturally harlequined. Wouldn't even be a surprise after all the other things you two have done. Love the faux malachite. Finally: how did the chicken taste?

{Tara} said...

I am speechless...I cannot even fathom the patience it took to do this! It looks AMAZING!

soodie :: said...

that is beautiful, yet crazy. at first my head was thinking dark and white chocolate on chicken? what the hell? and i got confused but immediately thought it doesn't matter because everything tastes better with chocolate on it.

i wonder if your recipe is adaptable to cover a large vegetable -- it is visually stunning. so glad you experimented and posted this.

António Erre said...

I am speechless! Of course not. This is surreal. Good, good, good ;-)

Irahs said...

That is totally amazing, disgusting and decadent. Well done! It's facinating how food presentation fashions have changed.

kpeach said...

you are crazy and amazing! I see a food network show in your future that's the opposite of lazy annoying Rachael Ray!

Jill said...

You are a far better woman than I!

Joseph said...

Do you remember that skull we saw in Paris? This reminds me of that so much! Absolutely gorgeous chicken! I never thought I would be saying that to be totally honest.

RG ART & DESIGN Inspirations said...

This is absoluty(IN)DECOROUS!!! I never thought in my life I would see an Harlequim chicken! It's THEATRICAL!!! BEAUTIFUL! Thanks for sharing such an unique "chicken"!

Joseph said...

It was actually in Philadelphia!

http://www.kellysalerno.com/art21/images/image20.jpg

Louis St.Lewis said...

Gorgeous! This is what I'm talking about, taking the idea of lifestyle to the extreme. This is how anyone with ambition should be serving a meal. This is not for the faint of heart, nor for the timid of style. This chicken screams DIVA from first gulp till last and that ladies and gentlemen is exactly as it should be. My compliments to the chef!

(IN)DECOROUS TASTE said...

Carol- Thanks, I love your display ideas.

Little Augury- Louis XV fever this week... Louis XIV next? I'll be gilding chickens before we know it.

ArchitectDesign- The bit about eating cold chicken for dinner is absolutely true. Totally unappealing. But then again, so is a chicken that looks more like chocolate than poultry, haha.

Soodie- Yes yes yes, I had the same thoughts!

Home Before Dark-That, and we'll figure out a way to breed the geese that lay golden eggs, and we'll be SET. After working on the chicken for so many darn hours, I could barely stomach the idea of consuming it. I did have a chuckle at the leg sitting on my plate next to a pile of broccoli, looking like a little terrier dressed up in argyle!. Other than that, not bad, not bad!

Irahs- The House & Garden article about the Louis XV chicken made some statement to this effect. I think they wrote something about it being an era in which the aesthetic presentation of food mattered more than the taste, and I think they certainly made a good point. We're much more focused on food that looks like what it's supposed to look like now- chicken that looks the chickeniest of all chickens, apples that somehow epitomize the essence of apples, etc. Maybe that's what's so frighteningly grotesque about this bird. It seems to me that they were more receptive to food fakery in the 60s, when this was reprinted, though... or at least all of the jellied "loaf" recipes in my grandmother's cookbooks would suggest that!

Louis St. Lewis- Dear god, next thing you know I'll be meticulously measuring the place settings!

Porcelains and Peacocks said...

I would love to see this at a Black and White Fete!

lucinda said...

This just blew my mind and I have to make one... or something like this. I see a harlequin patterned frittata working well.

Lee said...

Can I get this at Kentucky Fried Chicken ?

Steven said...

Um... How do you eat it? Do you serve it cold?

Alice said...

Mmmmmmmm, yummy!! It must be still alive - I found it because it was tweeted . . . I bet it isn't very cheep cheep cheap though!

I might well have to try it one day. I love eggplant (aubergine this side of the pond). But I won't be wasting the flesh . . .

Mama B. said...

How very Heston Blumenthal. Interesting.

Mags said...

WOW...just WOW! I had making laminated dough on my list of things to conquer this year, and now I think I've got another thing to add. How impressive, seriously!

Missus Chineses said...

CAN I JUST SAY THAT YOU'RE A MOTHERFUCKING GEEEENIUS.

Chanced upon your site from here: http://morningmidnight.com/page/2 and I LOVED THE SHOES and I've been on your site trolling it like a damn troll til here and honestly

I LOVE EVERYTHING. I might love you, but that's kinda creepy, so I'll just love everything you do instead.

Chic Cookies said...

That's incredible! I've never seen anything like it. Thanks for sending the link to edible crafts! I posted on your chicken today (ediblecrafts.craftgossip.com)

e_donaldson said...

WOW! This is truly amazing! Great work. I posted about your amazingness on my craft forum too. I am very impressed. I don't know that I could eat it (it's too pretty!!).

- Elizabeth
Co-Owner of missimagination.com

s. stockwell said...

Just Stumbled Upon this! Wow, love it. Could make a very impressive turkey too? Careme eat your heart out. Best from Montecito, California

Anonymous said...

Thats the most disgraceful thing I have ever seen performed on a chicken. I really hope you're not a serious cook. I happen to be a Chef and am disgusted with such a stupid display. Why would you fancy up a beautiful roasted chicken by turning it into a stupid art project. Really really disgraceful. Careme and Escoffier would be rolling in their graves.

Anonymous said...

Hey Zelma, WTF :P

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