The Idiot Leaves It

Today we’re going to make a simple meal that will wow your guests. Are you ready? It involves birds, so the more squeamish among you, feel free to check back next time. Although it isn’t as bad as rabbit, I must say.

You will be wondering about the title, I assume. It refers to the most tender part of a chicken called “sot l’y laisse.”  It’s pronounced so-lee-less and it means “the idiot leaves it.” This is a hidden part of the bird that often gets thrown away with the carcass and many an idiot know not what they are missing. (And yes, our word “sot” has a French derivative). (And yes, I, too was once an idiot).

The sot l’y laisse is also called the noble part of the bird because the sun king, Louis XIV, ate only that part of the chicken at every meal (while dining at his “hunting lodge,” the Palais de Versailles, his regular palace more conveniently located in Paris in what is currently the Louvre, of course).

Alrighty then. I’d like to try a new recipe today. Are you game?  (huh huh)

It involves the ingredients I spied on the store-bought rotisserie chicken I’m such an incredible sucker for. Granted, I did not rush out to buy the fenugreek listed and I hope we shall not suffer for it, and I could only guess at the proportion of the ingredients, but it’s so succulently good, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

First. Preheat the oven to 425°. Then take a chicken.

What – it’s your first time cooking a whole bird? You usually just buy chicken breasts and smother them in sauce to make the dry things edible? Fear not. I shall walk you through the process.

First wash the chicken and cut the strings around the bird if there are any. (Or is that just France?)  Ah – free at last.

Then pour olive oil generously over the bird.

Now for the sauce. Here are the ingredients I assembled.

And here are the proportions I used:

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon white pepper

½ teaspoon piment doux – it’s a sort of mild chili. Perhaps you could just use chili powder?

¼ teaspoon ginger powder

¼ teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon oregano

2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt

And, add to that, a teaspoon of flour. I kept mine gluten free and used corn starch, which I thought to be the most mild base to bind the spices together.

Okay. Now ya gotta get your hands dirty. Sprinkle the seasoning on first,

then rub it all over, inside and out and upside down. It’ll stick nicely to the olive oil. Pour a half cup of water on the bottom of the pan.

Are you thoroughly grossed out by touching raw meat? Alright, alright. In your case, I’ll cut you some slack and give you a different trick. It will still be very good if you follow all the instructions, but replace the seasoning (which HAS to be rubbed in) with sea salt and herb de provence or thyme. Those you can just sprinkle generously over the olive oil – salt first and herb second. You could also cover the bird with dijon mustard over the olive oil (use a spoon) and then follow with the salt and herb. But in that case I recommend you cover the chicken with aluminum foil while cooking until the last ten minutes.

Moving right along. Put the pan in the oven and cook for an hour. I cooked for 50 minutes and turned the heat off, then kept the chicken in for another 40 minutes. I think it tastes best when the meat is actually falling off the bone.

This did the trick.

While your poultry is cooking, why not make some rice?

Four cloves of garlic minced in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Then two teaspoons of fresh basil (I used frozen and then ended up adding an additional teaspoon of dried basil for more taste).

Sauté a bit and then add 2 cups of rice then stir it all together over heat to let the taste infuse.

Add 5 cups of water (if it’s brown rice, which is what I used – or with white rice use 4 cups), 2 bouillon cubes and a teaspoon of salt.

Boil the rice and when it’s boiling, turn down the heat, cover and simmer, stirring from time to time.

Cook about 40 minutes until all the water is soaked up.

And why not prepare a bit of salad while you’re at it?

This is from our garden.  A typical French dressing is one tablespoon of dijon mustard

with one tablespoon balsamic vinegar

and three tablespoons olive oil (or mix different oils).

Put the dressing on bottom and the salad on top. It’ll be ready to go and you can toss it right when you’re about to eat it (remember – after the meal with some bread, not before or during).

Back to our chicken. Are you still with me?  We’re losing him!  Scalpel!

Does the thought of carving it make you want to lie down with smelling salts? (Not like we’re dramatic over here or anything). Anyway, never fear. Get out your poultry or kitchen shears. I assure you it is well worth the investment if you don’t own any.

Cut the drumsticks, thighs and wings off first.

Then split the breast down the middle and go ahead and cut the entire bird in half.

Turn it over and let’s find what you’ve all been waiting for – the sot l’y laisse!

At the bottom of the picture is the tail to give you a sense of where it’s located. I know this picture is not super clear, but there is a little spoon-like bone that holds the sot l’y laisse.  That should help you find it.

There’s one.

And there’s the other. (There are two).

Set them aside.

For the rest of the chicken, you can cut the breast in quarters and either cut the underneath of the bird and serve it, or leave it in the kitchen (depending on how familiar you are with your guests – I actually serve this often for the family so the whole thing gets brought out).

Place the pieces of chicken artfully over the sauce.

That’s right – that’s sauce down there. Did you know that? It’s good! That’s why you add oil and water to mix with the drippings and seasonings. It’s so you can pour it over rice.

Mmmm.  And when your chicken is ready to serve, carefully place the sot l’y laisse – that noble part of the bird –  right on the very top in order to present it to your most distinguished guest.

Or you can just pop them in your mouth while still in the kitchen.

Those sots will never know.


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I am the daughter of a symphony musician who was raised in upstate New York, and I simply breathe all things classical, be it music or 19th century literature (English and Russian). I married Sir Renaissance in New York City, and before I knew it, he had swept me up and brought me back home to his own country. So here we are. Three children, a rather ordinary life in a rather exceptional place. I am now ‘A Lady in France.’

Posted in Food, La Cuisine (The Kitchen), Les Français (The Frenchies), Main Dishes, Meat & Fish, Tout le Reste (Everything else) Tagged with:
25 comments on “The Idiot Leaves It
  1. Cute post – and the recipe looks so easy. I am definitely going to give this a try! Thank you!

  2. Hmmmm looks very yummy.

  3. Stacia says:

    Eating meat, let alone looking at pictures of it, gives me the willies. But that salad dressing? Looks so delicious. I can’t wait to try it.

    • ladyjennie says:

      Sorry about that – I do understand. Honestly, never have I eaten so much meat since marrying a Frenchman. The salad is good and the rice is too, actually. Both veggie options.

  4. I LOVE the notion of eating the salad last with bread (I know “notion” is the wrong word here; as if it’s a whim instead of the “correct” way of serving a meal); but I’m a sot, so…

    Very often, we are hungry (at home or a restaurant) at the start of the meal or while waiting to be served and stuff ourselves with bread and salad beforehand; when the main course (not entrée – as I’ve learned from you 😉 arrives, we are full.

    I think it is wise to have the meat, rice/vegetable first.

    Then finish with a light salad and bread.

    Then again, I suppose we’d overeat anyway because this recipe looked so delicious…

    I now MUST eat breakfast.

    What part of the oatmeal does the idiot leave?

  5. mep says:

    Perfect post for a sot like me who has always been too intimidated to roast her own chicken. Thanks for the tutorial. Between you and Barefoot Contessa, I think have the information I need. I just need the courage!

    I agree with Stacia about the salad dressing. Sounds delicious.

  6. Katharina says:

    Simple and food always seems so delicious. I feel like I was in the kitchen with you. Beautiful photos and great instructions. Will you have us over for another recipe sharing? (Did I miss the temperature setting of the oven?)

    • ladyjennie says:

      Thank you Katharina! I only mentioned the temperature at the beginning when I said to preheat the oven to 425°F. But that’s the temperature you use. I should add that if you don’t want grease to splatter over your oven causing it to smoke, you can and should cover the chicken with foil until the last 15 minutes. I don’t always do it though. I just deal with the messy oven.

      I love sharing recipes and do want to share more. But there area already quite a few posted if you click on the category “La Cuisine.” Thanks again for your encouragement.

  7. Genny says:

    That looks fabulous! I love your photographs too. Thanks for the recipe, and for introducing yourself over at MyCup2Yours. It’s so nice to meet you and learn more about you!

  8. Ms. Pearl says:

    This was a lot easier than the rabbit dish. :) Looks very good. By the way, I tried your chicken with tarragon and it was great!

  9. ladyjennie says:

    I thought of you, my poor friend, when I wrote this blog. (Froggy’s going to have a tough time with this one).

  10. ayala says:

    I make a mean roasted chicken but I am going to try this , it looks delicious :)

  11. Ohhhh… yummmm…. I’m suffering a great deal of desire over here in boring America.

  12. liz says:

    The only whole bird I’ve ever dealt with went straight into a deep fryer.

    Deep fried turkey for Thanksgiving – yum!

  13. your pictures are always so amazing and crisp. and, of course, the meals always look AMAZING. i think i just gained a pound when i licked my screen. yes, i just admitted that.

  14. OMG, that looks so good. And I will tell you hands down that French salad dressing is the best in the world. So simple, so awesome. I’m salivating.

  15. My mouth is watering all over my keyboard. I can never make my chicken look that delish!

  16. Stephanie Smirnov says:

    You are enchanting, as is that chicken.

  17. Andi says:

    The photos are amazing and good recipe, I love doing a whole chicken and did not know about all the wonderful parts until moving to France, I think I have tried everything now! Five years ago I would never have been able to say I live chicken heart…now I can! I also have searched everywhere since returning to the U.S. for a place I can buy brechet – the wishbone – it is better than chicken wings. We used to buy them at the marche and grill them with parsley and garlic – yum! Fantastic post – sorry for the delay in comments, I am finally getting unburied post-vacation and getting a chance to visit my friends!

I'm Jennie. Welcome to A Lady in France! I write books, and also this blog on faith, French culture and recipes ... ( To continue reading, please click here. )

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