Sunday, August 5, 2018

In the French Kitchen with Kids | Mr. Neil's Roast Chicken

It's an honor today to be posting about my friend Mardi Michel's new cookbook, In the French Kitchen with Kids. She and I connected back in 2012 as ambassadors in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Community and we are both hanging in strong today as global Super Ambassadors. 

Mardi Michels of is a full time French teacher in Canada and also teaches children how to cook twice a week in her school's food lab. 

She is such an inspiration! 

I'm singing her cookbook "to the Mullies" and beyond today. (Pronounced "Muh-lies," this means "Geronimo." My sister and and I coined the phrase back in the early 80's while jumping off high, scary places with unknown landings.) 

Isn't that like cooking (with or without kids)?

I have fallen unabashedly, head over heals, for her delicious French recipes... And so have my kids. Her well thought out cookbook begins with "top tips for cooking with kids" which are spot on for anyone who is interested in welcoming little ones into the craziness of a kitchen. She also outlines the basics (pantry ingredients & equipment) to get your French Kitchen party started. NOTE: This is NOT fancy stuff - Super doable, realistic and time tested by Mardi who is one of the most seasoned, practical chefs and teachers I know! The holidays are coming... time to get those lists started, or a quick trip to TJMax. The "kitchen blowtorch" is on my wish list. Crème brûlée, I'm coming after you.

This is the first post of many from her cookbook - Bon Appetite! 

I decided to cook up Mr. Neil's Roast Chicken for our dear friends who moved away to the Bahamas (Krissy's Gone Coconuts) last week. It was totally impromtu (they were packing and needed to be fed!). I invited the boys into the kitchen with me and it turned out to be the most wonderful going away dinner ever.

Let's rewind the evening and tell the picture story of how Mr. Neil's Roast Chicken came together.
(This cooking instastory can be found under ⚡️FoodEdFun⚡️highlights here.)

Tommy is my youngest and most enthusiastic chef. He tells me he wants to go to culinary school and live at home forever... my heart goes pitter patter.

Tommy says: "I want to stay home because at college you have to sleep there and I don't know if I'm gonna have a creepy cell mate."

A confident rock-chopper.

Tommy says, "Rock-chopping like a T-Rex!"

We had some good laughs stuffing the organic, pasture raised bird with lemons, garlic and thyme from our kitchen garden. Tommy had never stuffed a bird's cavity before. 

Tommy says, "This was disgusting, I didn't want to shove a lemon up the chicken's butt. But it was ok."

When Tommy's friend Wolfi came over, he just watched for a bit. It's rather unnerving watching someone prep a chicken for roasting if you've never done this before (I'll never forget putting pats of butter under a bird's skin for the first time myself!). I invited the boys to help me, made it fun, we laughed and relaxed... and they decided to join me!!

Don't worry if your little cooks decide not to join in... they might next time. I LOVE how Mardi coaches you through the unexpected food education moments in her cookbook:

"Kids might be squeamish about touching raw chicken (especially when it comes to placing the lemons, garlic and herbs in the cavity and butter under and over the skin.) The more they see you doing tasks like this, though, the more normal (and less gruesome) it will appear. In the meantime, get them busy chopping the vegetables and mixing in the oil and seasoning in the roasting pan."  Mardi Michels - In the French Kitchen with Kids 

Tommy says, "It feels super weird to put the the butter under the skin and feel it."

Can you believe I stretched this recipe for our entire dinner party! I made a quick gravy with the drippings from the root vegetables (the vegetables are the VERY BEST PART!!!!). I also froze the chicken carcass in a gallon freezer bag to make stock for a future soup night.


Tommy says, "It was really tasty. It was really fun cooking with you again Mom. Can we make the french fries and chocolate croissants (pains au chocolat/chocolatines) next?"

Yes Tommy. Yes we can.

I will be making Mr. Neil's Roast Chicken again and again for my family table. Thank you Mardi + Mr Neil for including such a special recipe in your 1st cookbook. 

I'll be first in line for your 2nd someday.

Here is her amazing recipe for you to share with YOUR family table! 
*ps If you would like to share your experience with Mardi and others in the food education world, don't forget to use the hashtag #inthefrenchkitchenwithkids and #tothemullies*

I can't wait to be inspired by your French cooking adventure!

Mr. Neil's Roast Chicken {Poulet Roti}
Serves 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: about 1.5 hours

2-3 c roughly chopped assorted root vegetables (we used rainbow carrots, celeriac, turnips, potatoes)
2 medium yellow onions, thickly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 small lemons, grate the zest of one and use both for the chicken
6 sprigs fresh thyme (we also added 2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves here)
2 tsp flaky sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken (ours was organic, antibiotic free and pasture raised from a local Midwest farm)
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled but smashed
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1/4 c salted butter, at room temperature
1-2 tsp dried Herbes de Provence or dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 c salted butter melted
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled but smashed

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Scatter the chopped vegetables in a roasting pan with olive oil. Add lemon zest, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper to the vegetables and, using your hands, mix until all the vegetables are coated. Make sure the vegetables are sitting evenly on the bottom of the roasting pan.
  3. Pat the cavity of the bird dry using a paper towel.
  4. Cut both of the lemons in quarters and place them in the cavity of the bird with the smashed garlic and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. If all the lemon quarters don't fit, you can pop them in the pan with the vegetables - just don't forget to take them out when you are serving the chicken.
  5. Cut about half of the butter into small pieces and place them under the skin of the bird. To do this, start at the cavity end of the chicken and slide on or two fingers between the meat and the skin. Work slowly, separating the skin from the meat as far as you can reach. Squish the butter pieces slightly and fit them under the skin as best you can.
  6. Spread the remainder of the butter over the outside of the skin. The easiest way to do this is with your hands. Season the bird with the Herbes de Provence or dried thyme and a touch of pepper.
  7. Place the bird directly on the vegetables in the roasting pan and place in the oven for 20 minutes, until the skin starts to brown nicely.
  8. Add smashed garlic to the melted butter and place this over very low heat on the stovetop. You will use this to baste the chicken while it's roasting.
  9. Turn down the oven to 400 degrees and roast the chicken for 60 to 70 minutes more, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the high part of the the thigh registers 165 degrees. Normally, you can count on about 20 minutes' cook time per pound of chicken but to be absolutely sure, a meat thermometer is the way to go!
  10. While the bird is cooking, baste it every 20 minutes or so with the melted butter and smashed garlic. This will season the bird even more.
  11. Once the bird is cooked, remove it from the oven (leave the vegetables in the roasted pan), place it on a cutting board (preferably one that has a drain ridge to catch any juices), cover it loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before you carve it.
  12. Give the vegetables a good stir and place the roasting pan back in the oven until you are ready to serve the meal. If the vegetables are not crispy enough, you can set the boiler to high (around 400 degrees) and broil them for about 5 minutes, but do keep an eye on them as they might burn.
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To the Mullies we go...

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