Funny how the chicken has become our most beloved bird. My neighbor is raising some exotic chicks, but even those of us who don't go to that extreme have our own favorite named chickens to buy — Rosie, Rocky, Mary or the more exotically named Jidori. Roast chicken is the go-to dish for every chef I can name. And chicken is a perennial favorite on most restaurant menus — fried, pan-fried, rotisserie-roasted, in tagine, salad, soup, pot pie, curry and every which way. Here are three of my favorite chicken dishes in L.A.
Bouchon may be famous for its lusty fried chicken, and that is one of the great fried chickens of the world, but my heart is firmly fixed on Thomas Keller's roast chicken grand-mère, which may be the prettiest chicken dish in L.A. It arrives tall and proud, the breast stacked on top of the leg and thigh, with dainty pearl onions, demure fingerling potatoes, button mushrooms and bacon lardons strewn around the plate in the bird's winter savory-infused juices. It's one of the most comforting dishes I know, especially with a Pinot Noir from Burgundy or the Central Coast.
235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9910, http://www.bouchonbistro.com. Poulet rôti grand-mère, $27.50.
Keller's former right-hand man, Jeffrey Cerciello, turns out a superb roasted jidori chicken at Farmshop in the Brentwood Country Mart. Roasted to a dark gold, crisp-skinned with moist, tender flesh, this bird sets the standard. The accompaniments change with the season and with what looks best at the farmers market. One time, it might come with braised red cabbage, bacon and smoked almonds, another evening — and another season — roasted heirloom eggplant and an emerald salsa verde studded with pistachio. And, as always, it's served on colorful Heath ceramics, the same ones that are sold in the market next door.
225 26th St., Santa Monica, (310) 566-2400, http://www.farmshopla.com. Roast jidori chicken, $28.
Pollo a la Brasa
You know that little shack at the corner of 8th Street and Western Avenue with firewood stacked along one wall and the scent of woodsmoke in the air? The birds aren't organic or anything fancy, but they pick up a wonderful flavor from the wood roasting. The skin is crisp and smoky — irresistible. Even Nancy Silverton has been known to pick up a few for an impromptu dinner at home. Make sure to get some of the nicely seasoned rice and beans and plenty of the scary-hot green aji sauce too.
764 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 387-1531. Whole roast chicken with sides and aji sauce, $18