One of the first high-end restaurants in France to embrace the concept of le doggie bag was Le Coq Rico, a Parisian temple to roast chicken opened by the chef Antoine Westermann in 2012. The restaurant specializes in whole roast birds, and diners are encouraged to experience the chicken in its entirety: from egg to table, from cockscomb to tail feathers.
“A wing is a different flavor from the breast, and the breast is a different flavor from the oysters,” the chef wrote from Paris. “We want each client to be able to enjoy any part of the bird that they prefer.”
The traditional French way of eating embraces moderate portions and clean plates; taking food home was long considered impossibly gauche.
But a restaurant that serves whole roast birds – often more than one per table, as the menu encourages tasting chickens of different breed, age and terroir – is going to produce leftovers, and Westermann has adopted them with enthusiasm. It is also possible that customers who pay 98 euros ($108) for a roast chicken feel entitled to every last scrap.
Now that a branch of Le Coq Rico has opened in Manhattan, Americans can see this French flair as applied to the doggie bag. The basics are the same: glossy shopping bag, spiffy paper container.
But each bag also holds a creamy sheet of thick paper with recipes. The recipes are easy and not earthshaking, but their presence gives the leftovers a shimmer of potential.
Westermann has visions not only for the meat, but also for the bones and even the juices that collect and coagulate in the container. Rich with gelatin and umami, they are melted into a dressing for salad greens in one recipe. In another, they are used to bind and flavor a terrine.
The French government has recently become involved in l'affaire leftovers. As part of an effort to reduce food waste, since Jan. 1, restaurants have been required by law to send all customers home with le gourmet bag, a rebranded doggie bag, on request.
Perhaps official recipes for leftovers will be forthcoming.
Roast Chicken Salad With Croutons and Shallot Dressing
For the dressing:
1/3 cup minced red onion or shallots
3 tablespoons sherry or balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste
1/4 cup minced parsley
For the croutons (optional):
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 cups bite-size bread pieces
For the salad:
10 to 12 ounces leftover roast chicken, skin and bones removed, with any juices that have collected in the container
5 to 6 ounces tender salad greens, like mesclun, Bibb or oak leaf lettuce
1 (2-ounce) chunk Parmesan or aged Gouda or other sharp cheese
In a bowl, combine shallots and vinegar and set aside 10 to 30 minutes to soften. Add 2 big pinches of salt and a dozen grinds of black pepper. Whisk in the oil and then the parsley. Taste and add more oil, salt and pepper as needed.
Make the croutons: Gently warm the olive oil in a skillet. When a piece of bread sizzles when dropped into the pan, add all the bread and cook slowly, stirring, until golden brown on all sides. Sprinkle with salt, transfer croutons to a bowl and wipe out the pan.
In the same pan, add the cooled chicken juices (they may have jelled). Don’t worry if your chicken doesn’t have juices; the salad will still be excellent. Add a tablespoon of water to pan and heat juices until smooth and runny. Dice or tear the chicken into bite-size pieces.
In a large bowl, toss the greens well with about 2/3 of the dressing. Taste and add more if needed. Divide greens among 3 or 4 bowls or plates. On top, divide the chicken, then the croutons, then the juices. Using a vegetable peeler, shave 3 or 4 thin, wide slices of cheese on top of each salad. Spoon a little more dressing on top and grind pepper over. Serve immediately.
Yield: 3 or 4 servings