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