Au Four Froid
The French have a cooking technique that I have never encountered in the U.S., which is to place a meat to be roasted into a cold oven. This little coquelet, (with an egg next to it for size comparison), for example, goes into a cold oven which is then turned to 400° and left alone for 50 minutes, when it’s done to perfection. You can’t get a coquelet, which is a baby rooster, in the U.S. as far as I know, but there’s no reason this wouldn’t work with a chicken or even a guinea hen.
The French believe, and I’m starting to be convinced myself, that all poultry and white meats,
like this melon de veau, veal stuffed with a delicious sausage mixture, should be started in a cold oven. They say that this helps keep the meat juicy and tender, because it doesn’t suffer a thermal shock on entering the oven. They also say that this technique permits the fat in the meat to melt gently as the temperature rises, and that the meat generally benefits from a slow-cooked start, with a hot blast at the end. The coquelet and the melon de veau definitely prove this point, and I’m curious to know what you think if you try this technique with a chicken or a guinea hen. I’ll tell you how I do the coquelet, and you can adapt it to the size of the bird you’re using. For reference, a coquelet feeds two people, so it’s about half the size of a chicken, and about twice the size of a guinea hen. Please do try this and report back – I’m very curious to know whether this French magic trick works in other countries!
Coquelet au Four Froid
1 coquelet (for 2 people)
salt and pepper
Rub a baking dish with olive oil. Place a large pinch of thyme inside the bird. Rub the coquelet with olive oil, then salt and pepper it generously. Place it in the oiled dish, place the dish in a cold oven, then turn the oven to 400°F/200°C. Roast for 50 minutes. When done, cut the coquelet in half with shears and serve.
I’ve been serving them with a sauté of trompettes de la mort (black trumpet mushrooms) and a purée of celery root, which, altogether, makes a luscious combination. A light red like a Gamay suits this dish well.