11/08/2005

I chickened Out!

OK, I chickened out on the pizza for Friday night’s dinner. I mean literally! I decided to go with a roasted chicken for dinner.

Right, following the theory that my husband doesn’t find pizza a comfort food due to ‘cultural education difference’ and knowing that he was having a bad day to finish off a bad week, I decided to make dinner special for him. This didn’t include lots of gooey cheese or anything involving crusts. (I felt limited at this point.)

But I came through. Our new oven has a rotisserie for whole species of the fowl family. Great way to do up a perfectly roast chicken without burning the bottom of it. Let the fat drip off the bird and onto the lèche frite away from the meat, away from our arteries, leaving nothing but succulent, juicy and lean meat for the family.

Sounds pretty healthy, huh? Maybe, maybe not. Right now you’re probably wondering, what is a lèche frite. To tell you the truth, I’m still searching myself.

What my husband has suddenly started referring to as a (literally translated here for full effect) “fry lick” is a large black cookie tray built to fit into the groves for the oven rack. It spans the entire baking area in the oven. What I find very interesting is that this lèche frite, comes with every French oven sold in France and has been commonplace in a French kitchen for at least 20 years.

My mother-in-law uses hers to bake her homemade meringues. My girlfriend uses hers to heat up hors d’oeuvres. They are more economical to use than traditional American cookie trays since you can get more on them than ours. You spend less money on electricity for baking purposes.

I’ve had one of these lèche frites since we bought our first oven 8 years ago but almost never used it. My first and main problem was that these lèche frites are always black. After burning my first batch of cookies on mine, I turned to the French culinary queen: my mother-in-law. She suggested that I line the tray with aluminum foil, which I did. The second ordeal involving my lèche frite consisted of me trying to peel the foil off the bottom of the second batch of burnt cookies. Verdict: sentenced to the never opened bottom drawer located just under the oven. End of story, right?

Wrong. Now that we have this fancy rotisserie function, I finally learned (8 years later no less!) that this ‘tray’ had a name and a real function: catch the drippings when you have a chicken suspended in the middle of your oven, slowing turning round and round and round for two hours. Since it covers the entire bottom surface of the oven and it fits in the lowest groove of the oven rack groves, it’s ideal for catching the fat dripping off the bird without any mess burning, blackening or smoking off the oven’s hot bottom.

OK. Now that we’ve got a clear idea of the “intended” purpose this object, why in the world would the French call it a “fry lick”? I mean think about it. First of all, what gets “licked” in the oven? (I’m not talking about sending the dog in to try a quickie-cleaning job either.)

And secondly, what gets “fried” in an electric oven? I’ve always thought of ovens as being something used for “baking” items. There is also the “broil” option, cooking with the heat coming from above the food. If you’re lucky and live in France like me, your oven probably also has the rotisserie option. Still it’s a kind of baking, rotating the food in midair.

My first image when my husband told me the name of this tray was of someone licking a
French fry. Not my average daily mind image. Secondly, I thought of a flame of fire licking the bottom of a cauldron. That might explain the where the word “lèche” or “lick” comes from. But still, my oversized cookie tray doesn’t come up and lick my chicken (ever!)

And if you were to use a real fire to cook the food, how could it lick anything frying if the tray was placed between the fire and the food? Also, if you were cooking over an open flame, wouldn’t you want to keep the space between the meat and the fire open so the heat would cook it and not put a tray in between the two? I don’t know maybe it’s one of those French logic things that come with being born in the country.

I’m sure my husband has an excellent answer to this puzzle. Perhaps I’ve spelt the whole thing wrong, or understood incorrectly. A slim possibility but one that shouldn’t be ruled out nonetheless. (That, of course, is a joke.) He’ll probably tell me something like,

“The history of this “lèche frite” comes from the XVI century when King What’s-His-Name the XV ordered the head chef to collect all the fried fat from the meat so that he could lick it all up later.”

I made that up so don’t believe that one!

While my husband will probably have a field day with this entry and the origin of the word “fry lick” suffice it to say that the chicken was fabulous simply prepared with a sea salt rub and stuffed with some fresh garlic cloves, peeled. Served with fried potatoes and homemade applesauce for dessert, it was an excellent way to kick off the weekend. (All served with a kicking gravy sauce!) The kids love roasted chicken and who doesn’t like fried potatoes? It was a memorable moment around a un-fried, un-licked chicken.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We also had chicken this week in the over. It was skinless and based in herbs and olive oil. A very taste meal, indeed.

As far as Pizza. When you and your entourage come to the US in December, encourage your hubby to enjoy the wonderful Italian/American cuisine of a good ole delivery Pizza (Graziano's preferred).

Bon Journo

7:29:00 PM  

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