Miller: It’s Jan and Julia!

Published 1:35 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2021

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I wrung my hands at the thought of the new French recipe that I had not yet made. The clock was ticking, and I knew I had better get started, but somehow it seemed a daunting task. Each time I opened “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” I was struck again by all the ingredients. It looked as if each recipe needed a master chef to complete the task, but I set my chin and burrowed my head deeper into the book.

Time and again, I found a recipe that looked doable only to chicken out. Finally, I found one that I didn’t think I could mess up. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you guys what I chose because it really seems like a cop out, or should I say chicken out, but I chose Poulet Roti. For my fellow non-French speaking readers that means roasted chicken.

The list of ingredients was small, but the steps seemed ridiculously long. I have, after all, roasted a chicken a time or two, but I didn’t want to cheat so I tried to go step by step. I chose a plump, juicy looking bird and went to work thinking that all the extra work wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

The recipe called for chopped onion, and carrots along with a good amount of butter and seasoning. I chopped the vegetables while the oven preheated and seasoned said bird. The main difference in the way I usually roast a chicken was the heavy use of butter and the almost ridiculous amount of time I perceived as wasted by turning the bird and basting every eight minutes throughout the cooking time.

I’ll tell you turning this chicken on its side, then on the other side, then the breast up, then the breast down, all the while basting every time made this cook think the French way was, shall we say, for the birds!

Each time I bent over the oven with the heat and steam hitting me full on in the face I muttered, “Why in the world am I going to all this trouble no one will ever know if I do it or not.” After a turn and baste or two, I began to notice the smell and look of this otherwise ordinary run of the mill chicken was not so ordinary.

By the time my attempt at French cooking was over I stared at the gorgeous bird and was glad I followed through. The results were more delicious than I could have imagined, and I don’t think I’ll ever roast a chicken the old way again.

When I think how I stressed over something as simple as trying a new recipe, I realize anew that this world is full of so many exciting and fun things to try. I let the idea that it was really difficult, and I probably wouldn’t do it well, keep that book on the shelf for way too long.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at