Guillaume Brahimi is the namesake behind Bistro Guillaume, a French-inspired premium restaurant with locations in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. To the chef’s mind, each restaurant is testament to his homeland. “Bistro Guillaume is everything I like about classic French dishes,” he says. “French food is the foundation of a lot of cuisine. The sauces, the pastry, the baking – it’s a cornerstone of a lot of cooking and very focused on the produce and season.”
Roast chicken remains an unwavering French favourite. “I think we’ve been roasting chicken in France since chicken was on earth and men cook,” says Brahimi. “You could say, 20 to 30 per cent of French households would have roast chicken on a Sunday lunch.”
It’s no surprise to find it’s a feature of the Bistro Guillaume menu. Brahimi’s half a roasted chicken with Paris mash and chicken jus main is a stand-out, alongside dishes like baby snapper with grilled cos lettuce and sauce vierge, and Berkshire pork belly, apple puree and pickled cabbage. Here are Brahimi’s secrets for preparing the perfect chook.
Guillaume says it’s imperative to start with a free range, organically farmed chicken weighing between 1.4 and 1.6 kilograms. “The most important thing is the quality of the bird – that’s key,” says Brahimi. “[At Bistro Guillaume] we’re using Barossa Valley chickens, probably some of the best in Australia.”
“If you buy a quality chicken, and you’ve got a good oven, and you cook it around 180 [degrees], you’re in pretty good hands,” Brahimi says. “We roast it with garlic, thyme and bay leaves, in a nice hot oven. If you keep turning it, in about an hour, or an hour and 20 minutes, you’ve got a nice chicken roast. When the skin is nice and golden, you’re nearly there.” But to really set it off, Brahimi has a secret little loving touch. “I like putting a bit of butter on the skin,” he says. “I’ll also put some salt at the last moment just before taking it out of the oven.”
Finish the dish with sides
At Bistro Guillaume, chicken is served with Paris mash and chicken jus. “We use desiree potatoes [to make the mash], quite a bit of butter and milk and work on it with a wooden spoon,” says Brahimi.
At home, Brahimi suggests throwing in a bunch of vegetables to cook in the same pan as your chicken – brussels sprouts, potatoes, carrots, celeriac, and turnips. While Brahimi says stuffing isn’t French custom, he’s not opposed to using bread, onion, garlic and parsley in the bird. He also recommends pairing it with “sauce Chasseur,” a combination of white wine chicken jus, tomatoes, mushroom and tarragon. “It’s a classic Larousse Gastronomique sauce,” he says, referring to the bible of French cooking.
Top and tail
At Bistro Guillaume there’s a few quintessential accompaniments to the roast. “For entree it’s hard to pass the classics,” says Brahimi. “Cheese souffle, in-house smoked salmon, the onion soup. For dessert you’ve got the profiteroles with vanilla bean ice-cream and hot chocolate sauce, mille feuille, and lemon tart.”
Of course we’re talking about French cuisine – don’t forget the wine. Brahimi says a quality drop from the Mornington Peninsula, Hunter Valley or Margaret River region is essential. “The old school would say meat with red, fish with white,” says the chef. “But I think a roast chicken [is perfect with] a beautiful Chardonnay.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Crown Melbourne. Try Brahimi’s perfect roast chicken at Bistro Guillaume, Crown Melbourne.