Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Thomas Keller’s Michelin-Level Chicken Prep Tip in ‘The Bear’

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There are many culinary lessons to be learned from The Bear. Don’t lock yourself in a walk-in freezer. Never underestimate the power of masking tape, a satisfyingly organized way to label all those sauces, spices, and miscellaneous quart containers in your kitchen. One of such top-notch tips in season three, which premiered earlier this week, comes from renowned fine-dining chef Thomas Keller.

As Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) stages at The French Laundry, Keller himself teaches him how to prepare a Michelin-worthy roast chicken. (Don’t worry—this isn’t a spoiler unless you’re specifically watching The Bear for chicken prep tips, in which case you should stop reading immediately.)

In the scene, Carmy and Keller stand in a sleek chrome kitchen, prepping roast chickens. Keller demonstrates the process. First: Remove the wishbone. You’ve probably noticed that this step is usually left out in roast chicken recipes—even the no-fail version from Bon Appétit. Why, then, does Keller dedicate so much care to delicately removing the wishbone?

As I often do when I have annoyingly specific cooking questions, I turned to senior test kitchen editor Shilpa Uskokovic, who almost always has an answer. Although you technically don’t have to remove the wishbone, Shilpa says, it makes for a cleaner carve, and one less bone to maneuver around when you’re eating the chicken later.

“You remove the wishbone when you’re serving a whole roast chicken because it makes it easier to carve the breast,” she says. “Your knife won’t hit that bone when you cut.”

In The Bear, Keller expertly scrapes, tugs, and extracts the chicken’s wishbone in about a half a minute. “Save that for tomorrow,” Keller says, in case Carmy would like to break it in half and make a wish.

Removing the wishbone at home should be about as easy—even if you don’t have seven Michelin stars under your belt as Keller does. Start with the chicken breast side up, and then “use your fingers to feel for the wishbone right under the neck skin of the bird,” Shilpa says. “Then you make a few incisions around it with a knife to loosen it from the meat, and you gently tug it out.”

Any small blade will do. Bonus points if the bone comes out in one piece. De-wishboned, you’ll be able to slice through the rest of your roasted chicken’s breast as if it were The French Laundry’s very posh butter—plus you earn a free wish.

Yes, chef:

Image may contain Food Meal Supper Dinner Roast and Turkey Dinner

Size matters. This isn’t the time for a mammoth Oven Stuffer, nor do we want some petite poussin—a 3½–4-lb. bird has the proportions we’re after. When the breasts are roasted to perfection, all that dark meat is on-the-nose-done too.

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