Tastes Like Chicken
At his self-named Fells Point bistro, Timothy Dean applies the haute-cuisine techniques he first learned from the legendary Jean-Louis Palladin to bistro fare. Diners have responded, and the restaurant has just passed the critical two-year mark. Deceptively simple, the food asks from diners nothing but enjoyment. But a lot of work goes into the simplest dish, such as Dean’s roasted chicken.
It all starts with a very good bird. Dean orders free-range chickens from gourmet meat purveyor D’Artagnan. They cost him 20 cents more a pound, but it’s worth it. He pulls some chickens out of the walk-in refrigerator and shows a visitor how good and healthy they look. They do, solid and rosy. “You’ve got to have a superior product,” Dean says. “This bird lived a great life and died happy, and then it’s cooked with love.”
He trims the chicken, scoops the ick out of the cavity, and fills it with shallots, garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper. Then he massages the bird all around with olive oil and covers it with salt and pepper.
Then the bird gets trussed, kitchen string intricately crisscrossing the breast and tying down the legs. Doing it right is complicated and takes new hires a while to learn. “My apprentice’s first task is handling my chickens right,” Dean says. “After about 100 chickens, they should have it.” Fortunately for Dean’s apprentices, he runs his kitchen Lovie Smith-style, so there’s no shouting.
Next, the chicken is placed breast-down in a very hot skillet, where it’s rotated gently in a mix of grapeseed and olive oils (the former has a higher smoke point) to help fuse the skin to the meat. This is the step that separates the pros from the pretenders. As Dean puts it, “If you’ve got a girl over and you’re looking to get laid, this is the step you take to show her how passionate you are.” Only then is the chicken roasted in a convection oven for about 25 minutes.
The chicken then gets cleaved into clean, recognizable parts, which are sealed into bags by a $3,000 vacuum-packing machine, to keep them fresh until someone orders the oven-roasted free-range chicken with truffle mouselline and garlic confit. When that happens the chicken parts are removed from the bag and placed with sage and rosemary in a bath of chicken stock and butter and into a hot, hot oven, which adds flavor and luxuriousness to meat as well as heat. After just a few minutes the chicken is removed from the oven and, as the dinner plate receives its velvety mouselline base, placed under a broiler to add some extra color and slight caramelization. Then the parts go on the plate in a corkscrew pattern, the garlic confit is added, and the dish is topped with a Pinot Noir sauce. Then a server brings this plate to the dining room, to someone who will undoubtedly say, “I love this—it’s so simple.”
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812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201