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The Best Chicken in Town

It’s 12:30pm in the afternoon at Peter Lowell’s on a Monday when I finally have the opportunity to sit down with our Head Chef, Joe Zobel, to talk chicken.  Yes, CHICKEN — personally, one of my most favorite foods (when done right) and one that Joe features regularly on the menu at PL’s.  A native of New Mexico, Joe has been based out of the North Bay area for the past decade.  He attended culinary school in San Francisco, worked for a number of talented chefs, and met the woman he would later marry.  Looking to get out of the SF grind, he took a job as Head Chef at a new Sonoma County restaurant.  Although the job didn’t turn out to be the dream job that it appeared to be, he was hooked on the lifestyle of sun, local farms, ranches, and wineries.  After working there for a year and with a baby on the way, his interest was piqued when he learned that Peter Lowell’s was searching for a Chef de Cuisine to partner it’s then Head Chef, Natalie Goble.

The rest is history, as they say, with Joe moving into his second year with PL’s as the Head Chef, a role he stepped up and into when Natalie went on maternity leave;  he hit the ground running and has only succeeded in his endeavors.  Customers and staff comment on it constantly — PL’s has found a new stride of consistency and quality that all are celebrating.  AND we love that when asked what dish most inspired him to cook, he answered “Roast Chicken.”

These days at Peter Lowell’s, we always break the chicken down to 1/2 birds.  We remove the carcass to be used for stock, and serve the half bird as an entree.  We always brine the chicken for at least 12 hours and start it on a cold pan with plenty of salt to make sure the skin get’s nice and crispy.  Whether it’s Rosie Chicken or Green Star Farms, the chicken is local and delicious around here.  This is how Joe recommends preparing and eating it at home:

Whole Roasted Chicken with Herbed Butter

15_02_27_Lowells_Joe-13431 whole local chicken, (preferably organic) giblets removed
2 heads garlic, cloves separated, still in the skins
1 carrot
1 leek
1 medium yellow onion
2 stalks celery
1/2 bunch Italian parsley
1 tablespoon thyme leaves chopped
1/2 stick softened, unsalted butter
3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
salt as needed

Dry the chicken well and salt heavily, inside and out, place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and as long as overnight.  This will ensure a crispy skin.  Drain off the excess moisture and pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
Pre heat your oven to 450 degrees.
Cut 1/2 the onion, the carrot, 1/2 the leek and 1 of the celery stalks into planks of even thickness and place them on the bottom of a heavy roasting pan, also add the garlic as well.  This will act as a roasting rack while at the same time giving flavor to the pan drippings.
In a medium bowl mix together the butter,  2 tablespoons of the oil and herbs well.  Carefully lift the skin of the chicken along the breast, leg and thighs with your index finger and thumb, being careful not to tear the skin.  When the skin has been lifted slide in the herb butter between the flesh and the skin on both sides of the chicken.  This can be messy but well worth it.
Wipe off any excess butter from the chicken skin and truss the chicken with butcher’s twine.

15_02_27_Lowells_Joe-1168Rub chicken with the remaining olive oil and roast for roughly 1 1/2 hours rotating every 30 min or until a thermometer reads 150 degrees.
About halfway through roasting add the white wine.  This will keep the vegetables from burning and add to our sauce.
In the meantime, caramelized the remaining vegetables in some butter in a sauce pan.
Add the chicken stock and the pan drippings making sure to skim off the chicken fat and discard.
Let the bird rest for 15-20 minutes.
Carve and serve with roasted potatoes, Calabrian chili braised kale and some good crusty sourdough bread.

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