A bit of butter inserted under a chicken's skin before roasting is a good thing; a whole lot of herb butter: even better. Uber-chef Alain Ducasse has a nifty method for placing an impressive amount between the bird's flesh and skin without leaving half the mixture on your hands.
Here's the Cliff Notes: mix plenty of chopped fresh herbs into softened butter; roll out between 2 pieces of waxed paper; chill for a bit in the fridge and then insert pieces of the butter slab under the chicken skin.
And the official version, from "The Good Cuisine" by Alain Ducasse & Francoise Bernard:
Mix 11 tablespoons of butter with 1 cup parsley, chopped, 1 cup chervil, chopped, 1 cup chives, snipped and 1 teaspoon tarragon plus sea salt and ground pepper. Spread a very thin layer of this herb butter between 2 sheets of wax paper. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Make slits under the skin of the chicken. Insert small slices of the chilled herb butter between the meat and the skin..
This little herb butter truc from M. Ducasse not only produces succulent meat but also superb pan juices. I usually save part of the butter mixture to toss with the vegetables I roast alongside; fingerling potato halves, parsnip chunks and whole shallots were last night's trio. Ducasse suggests stuffing the chicken with a bread cubes, chicken liver, duck foie gras and bacon mixture. This is unlikely to happen chez moi. Last night's sacrificial chick had only a big handful of fresh tarragon in its belly.
Ducasse has produced an array of gorgeous big cookbooks, but this little volume -- a collaboration with Francoise Bernard (who describes herself as "the apostle of easy cusine") is a quirky delight. The book alternates their recipes and includes wonderful little bottom-of-the-page comments on each other's writings. Bernard gives a recipe for Sauteed Rabbit with Prunes that lists a tablespoon of red currant jelly to thicken the sauce. Ducasse notes: "Instead of red currant jelly, I suggest binding the sauce with a fine prune puree. Soften some prunes in warm tea, pit them and blend in a food processor."
In turn, after Ducasse's recipe for Oyster Casserole with Shallots, Bernard comments: "Combining two types of shallots adds a particular refinement to this dish, but I don't believe that it is absolutely ncessary. To reduce the cost, I would suggest replacing the champagne with a good dry sparkling wine."
Three hundred pages of this very opinionated, very French exchange: Mmmmm, delightful.
POSTSCRIPT: I am off to the Galapagos Islands for 10 days of traipsing through the tortoises and other adventures. New posts should resume at month's end