There are few things more wonderful than a perfectly roasted chicken — hot from the oven with crisp, caramel-colored skin giving way to juicy, tender meat. With the prick of a fork or a carving knife, the aroma of roasting juices, garlic and herbs escapes, instantly spurring feelings of comfort, home and hearth.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert says that men looking to sway a woman with their culinary skills would be wise to prepare a roasted chicken instead of a steak — evidence not that they can provide but can comfort with a weekday meal. The recipe for the so-called "engagement chicken" recently went viral when bride-to- be Meghan Markle was reportedly proposed to by Prince Harry while the couple was at home roasting a chicken.
But this isn't about just anyone's love of a roasted bird; it's about Leo Sloan's.
Sloan has made a business of selling this simple dish at Good Bird, his rotisserie chicken stand at St. Roch Market, and now also on Freret Street.
His formula is simple. Rotisserie-roasted chicken is tucked into sandwiches and served atop salads. Whole roasted birds can be ordered at the Freret Street location, but they need to be ordered at least 90 minutes in advance.
The chickens come from Springer Mountain Farms in Georgia, and Good Bird cooks them to have a wonderful browned and crispy-skinned exterior. The bird is enveloped in a tight foil wrap so that the heat and juices don't escape on the journey home.
The Larry Bird sandwich includes a mix of juicy white and dark meat and bits of crispy, fatty skin on chewy ciabatta from local bakery Breads on Oak, and a BLT-esque version adds bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado. The Good Bird, served on a baguette, features the punch of a basil-forward salsa verde and is dressed with aioli and romaine lettuce. Perhaps the most decadent sandwich is the whimsically named Bird Man Jr., in which chicken is topped with melted Swiss cheese, a creamy and tart red cabbage slaw and pickles on griddled sourdough.
Though chicken is undoubtedly the star here, a simple selection of fresh salads rounds out the menu. The Israeli salad comprises mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber wedges and red onions in lemony vinaigrette. The Hummingbird salad features a bed of mixed greens topped with slices of roasted chicken breast, a generous dollop of hummus, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and a salsa verde dressing.
Both the St. Roch and Freret locations seem designed for grab-and-go service, and the latter has very limited seating, with just two tables and a few chairs at a counter.
By taking one of the roasted birds home, one could almost — almost — get away with pretending to have baked it oneself. But Sloan deserves credit for his roasted chickens — and for this humble and winning concept.
You might not get a proposal out of it, but your dinner will be a success.