I remember interviewing Pascal Barbot of the pocket-sized restaurant l’Astrance, asking him questions as we sat over a coffee. We talked about his past, his influences, and how he would characterize his food. “It’s all based on dairy, really,” he said. Stop to think of it, and I realized so much of it was, from foamy milk on a beautiful appetizer, to the flavorful surprise underneath the chicken here.
The Auvergne, a Dairy Region
Well, it makes sense. Chef Barbot grew up in the Auvergne, a rough and ready region that claims, among other things, the gorgeous cheddar-like Cantal cheese, Roquefort, Laguiole and a host of other dairy delicacies. This recipe is based on his, and every time I make it or teach it, I send a silent thanks his way. Like all of his food, it’s first and foremost delicious beyond measure, but it’s surprising, and it’s simple. Those are all hallmarks that I look for when co-opting a recipe to share with you.
I recommend the finest chicken you can get, preferably from a local farm. I’ll give you two variations for flavoring the chicken, and then it’s all up to you!
Two Ways of Adding the Flavor to the Chicken
You’ll note in the recipe that you mince lime zest and ginger then rub that under the skin of the chicken. A more refined version is to squeeze minced ginger in cheesecloth and extract just the juice. Rub the juice on the meat of the chicken, then the minced lime zest. You’ll get less ginger zing, but plenty of ginger flavor.
- 1 cup plain whole fat yogurt, 250ml
- teaspoon ½grated ginger chunk of ginger peeled, from a ½ x ½-inch (1.5 x 1.5cm
- 1 teaspoon lime zest minced
- inch, 9cm One 3-1/2 long piece of fresh ginger peeled
- The zest from 1 lime minced
- 1 3-1/3 to 4 lb., 1.750-2kg chicken cutserving pieces,
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons Cilantro Oil see recipe
- Geranium blossoms - optional garnish
The day before you plan to serve the chicken, drain the yogurt. Place the yogurt in a strainer lined with cheese cloth placed in a bowl, and refrigerate for 6 hours. Remove the yogurt from the strainer. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the ginger and the lime zest into the yogurt, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Remove the yogurt from the refrigerator and strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, to remove the ginger and the lime. Reserve at room temperature.
Cut the ginger into chunks and purée it in a food processor fit with a steel blade. The purée won’t be smooth, but this doesn’t matter. Place the purée in a good-sized piece of cheesecloth, or other fabric that is loosely woven, and twist it to extract as much juice as possible - you should get 2 teaspoons of ginger juice. Discard the ginger pulp.
In a small bowl, mix the lime zest with the ginger juice.
Gently peel back the skin on the pieces of chicken without detaching it and either rub the ginger juice and lime zest mixture on the meat, or dip the meat into the mixture, which ever works best for you, making sure that you divide the mixture evenly among the pieces of chicken. Bring the skin back up and over the meat, as it was before, and pat it into place. Tie the wing and breast pieces together with kitchen twine so that the wing is held close to the meat, which will prevent it from drying out in cooking. Let the chicken marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Bring 4 cups (1 liter) water to a boil in the bottom half of a steamer. Place the chicken in the top half, cover, and steam until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the steamer and either pat it dry, or let it dry at room temperature.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking. Brown the chicken on one side, season it with salt and pepper, turn and brown it on the other side, seasoning it with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels and pat any excess fat from the chicken.
To serve, evenly divide the yogurt among six dinner plates, preferably white, placing it in the center of the plate and flattening it into a round in the center of the plate. Place either one or two pieces of chicken atop the yogurt, in the center of a plate. Surround each piece with 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of cilantro oil, garnish with the flower if desired, and serve.
- 4 cups cilantro leaves gently packed
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil 250ml
To make the cilantro oil, first prepare a medium-sized bowl of ice water. Cover a cooling rack with a thick, cotton or linen towel.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the cilantro, stir gently, then the minute the water returns to the boil transfer the cilantro to the ice water, to cool. As soon as the cilantro leaves are chilled, transfer them to the prepared cooling rack to drain for about 5 minutes. Then, wrap them in the towel and twist it as tightly as you can, to remove any excess water from the cilantro. The cilantro will feel almost dry when you are finished.
Place the leaves in the work bowl of a food processor fit with the steel blade. Add 1/4 cup (60ml) of the olive oil and process to make a thick paste. With the processor running, add the remaining oil. Transfer the oil to a container and reserve, covered, at room temperature. The oil keeps its intense flavor for a day or two, refrigerated.