The Cheap-Ass Gourmet Roast Chicken Bonus Dish: Bread Drippings
I was about to put this on Mike’s post on comfort food, but decided it is delicious and (I believe) uncommon enough that it deserved its own post.
There might be a name for the dish pictured above; if there is I do not know it. I now call it “bread drippings,” but I’m probably the only person that does. In fact, it isn’t really a dish at all so much as it is a byproduct of another dish: roast chicken. I recently read about it in a French cooking book by Dorie Greenspan; it wasn’t a recipe so much as a throwaway item she casually mentioned when discussing how to roast a bird. Since then I’ve looked about and discovered that it’s actually a common thing for professional chefs to do, especially French chefs. It’s also quite amazing, and I thoroughly recommend that you try it the next time you roast one. (And if you’ve never roasted a chicken before, here is how I do it.)
The only thing you need to add to your own roast chicken recipe is a small loaf of French bread and a touch of white wine.
Here’s what you do:
Right before you put your chicken in your roasting pan/Dutch oven, put in a layer of sliced French bread, just enough for the bird to fully sit on. Then pour a bit of white wine into the pan — just enough wine to just cover the pan’s entire base.
In addition to being extra ingredients, the bread and the wine are actually accomplishing specific tasks in the cooking process:
- The sliced French bread acts as a less conductive surface for the chicken to sit on. This allows for the bird to roast more evenly than it would were you simply to put it on the pan’s surface.
- The wine provides a bit of steam, which also helps provide a more even cooking. More importantly, however, it keeps the bread from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Whatever recipe you are using, at some point you are no doubt instructed to take the bird out of the oven, put it on a plate, and let it sit for some short period of time to finish cooking and let the juices settle.*
When you do this, scoop out the bread from the pan into a bowl. It will be fairly goopy, almost like damp turkey stuffing in its consistency. Part of this will be because of the absorbed wine, and part of this will be that the bread will have captured the chicken drippings during the roasting process.
Stir the bread mixture a bit, and spread onto some fresh sliced French bread. (Or, if you’re like me, you can toast that French bread into crostini prior, and spread the mixture on those.) Eat, and be amazed.
It is unbelievably delicious. My family now eats it standing in the kitchen right before we sit down to dinner, and I daresay it’s become the favorite part of roast chicken dinner. Or if there’s too much going on, I put the bread-dripping mixture in the fridge and pop it in the microwave for lunch the next day.
You can make slight, easy variations as well. For example, I now throw a sprig of whatever is handy with the wine before roasting: sage, rosemary, thyme, whatever. If I’ve sliced an onion for another dish (say, rice pilaf), I’ll throw one of the onion heels in as well. Some chefs actually recommend skipping the wine altogether and eating the slightly burned and crunchy dripping bread after it cools, almost like a crouton. The various places where I have read about this method all suggest adding salt, but if you brine your chickens like we do these days you really shouldn’t — the drippings themselves will be plenty salty.
It turns out this is a common way for professional chefs and kitchen staff to eat in restaurants in France. Roast a chicken for the customers, and then eat bread-dripping crostini throughout the evening while they work.
* Hint: Try letting the chicken rest breast-side down during this time. That way the juices will settle in the breasts, which because of their comparative lack of fat are the most likely to potentially be dry, especially as leftovers. I do this even for brined chickens now, because the effect on the breast’s juiciness is really quite dramatic.