17 December 2009

Mistletoe & Holly to (IN)DECOROUS TASTE -the Best December Post

(in anticipation of little augury's birth on Dec 31st, New Year's Eve, MY first of the BEST of 2009. On the BEST I bestow MISTLETOE & HOLLY, & the OTHER- A LUMP OF COAL)

Mistletoe & Holly for The Best Post of December 2009 LAUREN of (In)Decorous Taste

Yes-I know December is still rolling-but this post takes the cake? No-the Bird. Impressive is beyond is the term for this confection from LAUREN here. Take a gander and Be impressed. When I asked Lauren about posting this to my site I was very specific in saying- anyone that KNOWS ME will know this is not of my own creation. If you CLICK anywhere in this portion of the text it will take you to LAUREN'S ORIGINAL POST-DO Go and let HER know how much you appreciate her culinary skills-and believe it or not she is best known for her quite wonderful decorative arts skill- wall application, furniture and well who knows what she will paint- We will all be waiting to see-

Louis XV and The Jacquard 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 b├ęchamel (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.


  1. Truly a feast for the eyes ... .
    so beautifully styled / photographed.
    I'll let you know if my chef (aka
    husband) gives it a try.


  2. Just incredible ~ Bravo!

    I can't believe how beautiful it looks, this is definitely a conversation piece for any party.

    Can I share this on my Sur La Table Cuisine blog?

  3. Enzie- do check with Lauren about sharing it- Her blog is linked throughout my introduction-Gaye

  4. Mahhhhvelous! Just one question...how does it taste?

  5. I've said it before, will say it again: WOW!!! That is some seriously trussed up and pimped out Louis XV. I'd encourage all of LA's readers to spend a little time in Lauren's archives. You will see edgy, brilliant youth paired with a love of old world. She is our future. Enjoy the ride.

  6. I was just FLOORED when I first saw this -isn't it amazing? I just can't help wonder if they actually ate it and what it was like! (is that the always practical architect in me?)

  7. As to taste-we will wait for Lauren to weigh in today on that! I believe I read in her follow up that it tasted very good. Oh! but how does one eat their art-Its somewhat like eating your young!
    This is so crazy and amazing-and just think she did it for her readers and has graciously served it up to my starved readers!
    Thanks for all the comments on this one.GT

  8. This is almost unbelievable - but then you see how she was able to recreate it, and you're stunned. Really impressive. Imagine the reactions you would get bringing this out to the dinner table.

  9. Thank you all for your compliments on the (admittedly semi-ridiculous) chicken!

    Enzie- Absolutely, feel free to share it on your blog.

    Janet- For me, the only thing that could possibly justify the amount of time and effort put into the bird was its final appearance. For what it's worth, though, the meat was tender and the gelatin sauce is intended to keep it moist. It tastes like a cold bechamel. Cold is really the key. Which of course I knew going into making it, but taste wise, I still think hot chicken is better (definitely for dinner).

    Home Before Dark- You are too kind! And dear lord, those are quite some expectations to live up to. You have me shaking in my disco mirrored platforms!

    Architect Design- Ohhh yes, I most certainly did eat it! I even attempted to force-feed it to my 17 year old brother who was REALLY not into the idea of eating a chicken dressed in a jacquard pattern. He thought it looked like cake and wanted nothing to do with it from that point on.

    My Notting Hill- I wonder this myself. I may have to try sometime, and if I do, believe me you will get a follow up post.



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