Roast chicken rules the roost at The Peninsula on Michigan Avenue

June 21, 2013

Ever since The Peninsula hired a chef from New York's Eleven Madison Park, the menu at the lobby restaurant has taken a more refined turn. Out are the duck club sandwiches, and in are a few memorable plates, including a roast chicken with few peers in town.

The Lobby at The Peninsula may be known for its high tea service, but it could soon get a reputation for its chicken.

"People think chicken is boring, it's just plain old chicken, but I think the way we do it here, we present it at the table, take it in the back, carve it; there's two preparations, one with the breast, one with the leg, and you just get to see a lot more chicken," said Chef Lee Wolen.

First, Wolen separates the skin from the meat, creating a pocket. Then he makes a stuffing from butter, breadcrumbs, fresh thyme and lemon zest, which is piped between the skin and meat.

"That mixture really creates a nice shell between the skin and meat, so it definitely keeps it super moist and adds a ton of flavor to it," he said.

The bird is tied up, then rubbed rather generously with softened butter. The outside is seasoned with kosher salt, and then it roasts in the oven, until that exterior is golden brown. Once removed, it's stuffed with fresh herbs, presented tableside, then returned to the kitchen and carved. Wolen plates the juicy breast and crispy skin with seasonal vegetables, in this case, morel mushrooms. But he's not done.

"We shred the legs and we take chicken jus and a little bit of heavy cream and kind of boil that until it's thick and you add the chicken and chives at the end," he said.

The leg and thigh meat are served in a separate crock, a rich little side dish if you will. For dessert, don't pass up a chance to get one of the Lobby's outstanding souffles, like this passionfruit version; they're served warm and are utterly addictive. As for his chicken, Wolen says making so much of it hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for the bird.

"Yeah, I'm definitely a chicken eater," said Wolen.

The Lobby at The Peninsula
108 E. Superior St.

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