Hymn to roast chicken, a tasty emblem of Sunday lunch

orna the culinary obsessions you deserve. In elementary school, I ranked the different flavors of Carambar on a scale of 1 to 10, before swapping the less tasty ones for other types of candy, which in turn responded to an ingenious scoring system. As a student I set out to taste all the fougasse of Nîmes, which take their name from this Provençal bread with goose gratin, a specialty of my adopted city. What was the crispest? What stayed fresh the longest? Which was the most peppery, the least buttery, the best garnished? Useless and a bit monomanic, the exercise was still good. For a few euros, I exercised my palate daily and approached every day to the ultimate status of “connoisseur of Fougasse” – an academic degree that I had, of course, invented from scratch. When I came to live in Paris a few years later, the virus took over me. This time I made a commitment to go in search of the best roast chicken. It was the favorite dish of the French (according to a 2015 BVA survey devoted to the French and their cuisine) – and, after all, mine too.

Eyes and noses alert, like a mushroom picker, every Sunday I walked the aisles of the various markets in my neighborhood. Fortunately, corners with good roast chickens are easy to spot. First of all it is an aroma that gently draws you into his arms; an irresistible smell – like a blend of roasted spices and caramelized meat – that catches your nostrils, rises to your brain and drives neurotransmitters crazy. Then you have to trust your instincts: find the best support, the one with the heap of chickens with perfectly golden skin, neither too white nor too burnt. I had noticed that, often, to guarantee the quality of the meat you have to be ready to put your hand in your pocket: a free-range roast chicken costs from 9 to 12 euros per kilo, an organic one from 15 to 18 euros. Eventually, I thought I discovered the Sunday roast chicken hunter’s secret: come with an empty glass container, like a jar of mustard or jam, and ask to be filled with the cooking juices. Which, just heated at the right time, would moisten the accompaniments (mashed potatoes, fries, dauphine potatoes, green beans and others) in the most gourmet way, leaving, on the bottom of the plate, a concentrated nectar of aromas and cooking juices: the reward of “Saucers”.

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