In a pricey restaurant, a roast chicken would never appeal to me. Chicken has ho-hum, everyday associations compared to more sexy offerings like lamb shanks, steak au poivre, or grilled branzino. Yet, there’s another reason I never order chicken: I’m married to Richard, henceforth known as "the Chef," who brings perfection to poultry. The Chef takes the Murray’s organic chicken out of its wrapping and lets it dry in the refrigerator for a day or two; this insures the skin will be crisp. Then he seasons it only with salt, pepper and butter—copious amounts of each, especially butter. While the chicken cooks in the 425 oven, he puts it through an intricate set of maneuvers borrowed from Julia Child. It’s as if the chicken is insomniac—first resting on its side, then the other side, and finally on its back, which ensures the breast meat remains moist while the skin crisps up.
So why would I order chicken from Poulette, a tiny French takeout that seats 19 in a pinch? Because chicken can be a satisfying restaurant item when it is the star—like it is at the Peruvian or Chino-Latino pollo a la brasa joints which serve golden rotisserie chickens. Poulette's ¼ white meat chicken ($6.55) gives my man’s chicken a run for the money. The skin was crispy goodness, and I needed my knife to prize the meat from the plump breast but could suck the morsels off the wing—using up four napkins at the table where I sat to dry my sticky fingers. Poulette's birds provide a nice contrast to those charred pollos that twirl so long on the spit that when you tap lightly with your fork all the meat falls off the bone. The lunch special ($12.00) comes with two sides, and generous portions of mashed potato, ratatouille, green beens, mushrooms or more are simple goodness without a whiff of pre-prepared slickness (sides alone $4.95 small/$7.95 large). And that’s the thing about Poulette, it serves food that so closely approximates a home-cooked meal. Another reason for me not to eat there; I’m lucky, my man feeds me like this every night, but the friend who told me about Poulette is a single mom. She doesn’t have someone obsessively turning a bird around in 15 minute intervals in her oven. So for those who seek home-cooking with a French flair at a decent price, Poulette is a welcome find. Bon Appetit!
Upper West Side
426 Amsterdam Ave. (btw 80th and 81st Sts.)
212-875-0002 [There are many locations throughout NYC]