Flavour Guy: The flâneur’s guide to roast chicken

A cozy kitchen, photographed by Mathilda Tan (courtesy of stock.xchng)A cozy kitchen, photographed by Mathilda Tan (courtesy of stock.xchng)

We wouldn’t have cooked the chicken had it not been for the beans. Not that beans are needed to make chicken, but in this case one thing led to the other.

Every winter, Celina and I like to take a long walk down St. Denis. We are flâneurs, a lovely word that means we just walk around without any plans. I have noticed that the simple act of taking a walk is bifurcated. There are, as a type A cousin noted, planeurs and flâneurs. She tends to the former persuasion but hopes one day to have our attitude. From my perspective there are only a few basic rules for the flâneur: indulge in serendipity, take advantage of what is offered, and keep moving on.

Our St. Denis stroll always starts at La Binerie on Mont-Royal. The Binerie serves great baked beans, also pâté chinois (known elsewhere as Shepherd’s Pie), cretons, bacon, ham, sausage, thick slices of grilled bread, and an egg or two. This is traditional and hearty Québecois cuisine. Just to make sure that we are getting all of its benefits, we usually add a side of graisse de rôti (congealed pork drippings, which sounds better in French, eh?) but there was none that day so we were offered a slice of tourtière — traditional Quebec meat pie in a superb flaky crust.

There are other dishes at the Binerie that indicate a modest interest in contemporary cuisine, such as eggs benedict on weekends; and I did see a kiwi slice on someone’s plate, but for the most part the place hasn’t changed in about 70 years.

After a meal like that (plus another quart of beans for our freezer), we required a long walk on St. Denis. We decided to stroll down to Roy. It is almost a kilometer south, or four long city blocks. We turned right on Roy noting that the street has become impassable for cars because there is now a park in the middle of the block. This must be part of the Borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal’s decision to discourage driving in the area and make it more pedestrian friendly. The success of this plan may also have something to do with the two dozen or so vacant stores we counted on
St. Denis, but I digress.

Across from the park is Fernando, one of the best poultry and game markets in the city. It has rabbit, duck, squab (young domestic pigeon), capon, chicken, deer, boar and other game meats. We walked in. After much discussion about buying a massive capon (“it will last all week, monsieur”) we got a chicken big enough to cook Saturday night with leftovers for Sunday. I also saw some boned chicken bodies and picked those up for soup, and then there was a pile of chicken feet, which can be sublime when braised or stewed. They were almost giving them away so how could I say no? (Should you find feet defeating, consider that our grandmothers — Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Jewish, African… likely cooked them.)

We got home around 5:30. The Flavourguy went into action. I turned the oven to 425F (about 220C). I pulled the chicken liver from the chicken and cooked that quickly in a pan with some olive oil, salt and herbes de provence. I covered the bottom of a casserole with cut up potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, a chopped onion, and a few bay leaves. I salted and peppered the chicken and put that on top. The chicken went into the oven, which I turned down to 375F after half an hour. The bones and more veggies went into a large pot for soup. The feet went into a covered crock and cooked over low heat with the previous night’s tomato-pizza sauce, a dollop of wine, and a ladle or two of the now simmering stock as the dish slowly cooked down.

By 8 pm everything was ready. But it wouldn’t have happened if not for the beans.

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