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There can be no argument. The best chicken recipes in the world are French. Now, I have just insulted advocates for Italian cuisine and Chinese and every BBQ fanatic across America. I love all those other styles, but it’s just a plain fact: French recipes and techniques for chicken produce a combination of flavor and elegance that make you pause at the first bite.

If you ever have a chance to visit Paris, then be sure to tour some of the open air street markets. The markets can be small, with only twenty stands or overwhelming with over two hundred vendors tempting you step by step.

You’ll find wonder of all kinds in these markets, and along the way almost certainly a rotisserie filled with chickens scenting the market for many paces on either side. If you are lucky, you are renting a house and have a kitchen. So you can buy a fresh chicken, herbs and veggies, take it all back to your stove, and cook something grand.

A recipe? Essential Pepin has many chicken offerings but this one is Suzen’s favorite. Marrying a great chicken [from Free Bird Farm in the Hudson valley] with fresh herbs from our winter garden yields a bird that you are still picking at as you clean up the kitchen. If, if by chance, there are leftovers the next day, then you can have a great chicken sandwich: sliced or made into chicken salad. Go all out there, and make you own mayo. It turns out, it’s not that hard being French.

Jacques urges you to use fresh breadcrumbs. If you use dried ones, you’ll only need half the volume. Yes, one of the ingredients is Tabasco sauce. Yes, you’ll taste it. Yes, French chefs are flexible and inventive. No, I don’t think his grandmother ever cooked this for him.

If you do plan a trip to Paris, then the best guides to the street markets are Paris in a Basket: Markets, the Food and the People and Markets of Paris. Paul Bocuse co-authored In a Basket so it has great credibility. In a Basket can still be bought from resellers at Amazon while the newer Markets of Paris is still in print. If you love France, then both books are ones you will treasure.

Baked Chicken with Herb Crumbs from Jacque Pepin

Yield: serves 4


For the Chicken:

  • 1 chicken (about 3 ½ pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the Herb Crumbs:

  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • dried thyme
  • 2 fresh oregano sprigs or ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 slices firm white bread (3 ounces), processed to crumbs in a food processor (about 1 ½ cups)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives or parsley
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cut the wing tips off the chicken. (The wing tips, neck, and gizzard can be frozen for use in stock or soup.) Butterfly the chicken (see the sidebar).

Pull off the skin; it should come off easily except, perhaps, around the wings. Remove as much as you can.

Place the chicken flesh side up o n a large baking sheet and rub with the oil and Tabasco. Sprinkle with the salt.

For the herb crumbs, if using fresh thyme and oregano, chop the leaves in a food processor or mini-chop or with a sharp knife. Combine the bread crumbs, thyme, oregano, chives or parsley, pepper, and oil in a bowl and toss gently.

Pat the herb coating lightly over the surface of the chicken. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the crumbs are nicely browned. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the chicken into pieces and serve. Discard the melt fast or use it to sauté potatoes.-


Source: Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin