The Standard Grill is a restaurant in Manhattan but there is nothing “standard” about their signature dish, Million Dollar Chicken. I saw this being made on a recent Barefoot Contessa episode and it looked amazing. On the surface it may look like an ordinary roast chicken but there are a few additions and tweaks that really take this roast chicken to new heights. The first is that the bird is given a liberal smear of creme fraiche towards the end of the cooking time. This glaze gives the chicken a wonderful crust and really boosts the flavour, especially of the skin. The next and most important addition is that the chicken is roasted on thick slices of sour dough bread. The bread soaks up all the juices from the chicken and gets wonderfully crisp on the underside and incredibly luscious and moist on the surface the chicken sits on – we’re talking chicken drippings here people. I could have easily eaten just the bread and left the chicken – it’s very good, very naughty and very rich, hence the name of the dish I presume. Whoever came up with the idea of roasting a whole bird on bread is a genius, and whilst the bread is incredible, the chicken is pretty amazing too. You won’t need anything in the way of carbs to go alongside the chicken as the bread does the job and to be honest even the best roast spuds would pale in comparison to the roasted bread, did I mention I love the bread!
Ingredients Adapted from Ina Garten and the Standard Grill in NYC
1.8kg whole chicken, preferably organic or free range
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 lemon, cut in half
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 thick (about 1 inch) cut slices sour dough bread – day old bread is perfect
For the Creme Fraiche Glaze:
½ cup creme fraiche
½ a lemon, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon grated shallots, grated on a fine zester
½ teaspoon paprika
Season the chicken well inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the garlic, the lemon, the bay leaf and thyme. If you can manage to do this the day before, even better. If you like you can truss the chicken but it’s not really necessary.
On the day/night you plan to cook the bird, take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before you plan to roast it. Preheat the oven to 220C.
In a pan juts large enough to accommodate the chicken, oil the pan lightly with olive oil, place the pieces of sourdough in the center of the pan and then put the chicken on top of the bread (I also poured a little olive oil on the bread before I placed the chicken on top). Try to only have the bread under the chicken, if there is too much poking out then it may burn. Drizzle the bird with olive oil or brush with butter (they use olive oil at the Grill).
Place the pan in the oven and roast for 40 to 50 minutes, basting it every 12 to 15 minutes with the fat and drippings that render from the bird. I didn’t find there was much fat or drippings as happily the bread was soaking it all up. While the chicken roasts, assemble the glaze by combining all of the ingredients and whisking them together.
When the chicken is almost done, which should be at around the 45 minute mark, take a pastry brush and slather on a bit of the creme fraiche glaze all over the top of the chicken. Place the chicken back in the oven to let it caramelise. After about 5 minutes brush on another layer and let this last glazing caramelise too for another 5 – 10 minutes. If you find that your skin isn’t caramelising enough you can turn the grill on but watch the chicken carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.
At this point the chicken should be cooked through and nicely golden brown. The sourdough underneath the chicken will be brown and crisped on the side in contact with the pan, and moist and juicy on the side in contact with the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting it into serving pieces. Cut the sourdough into 2 to 4 pieces and serve with the chicken.