Cowboy Chicken vs Boston Market: Rotisserie Rumble
Something about America's Northeastern states grates on us Southwestern hicks.
OK, so I'm really a Midwestern hick--our distrust of New England is about the same. So the opportunity to pit a local enterprise against a national chain bearing a blue blood name? Couldn't resist.
Rotisserie cooking relies on little more than heat and time. Yet somehow this simple combination can turn out chicken roasted to a copper color, exceedingly tender and steaming with natural flavor. When you walk into a rotisserie joint, you want to smell burning wood and dripping fat.
You also want meat pulled from the fire only moments before.
Cowboy Chicken went into this toque to toque clash with a few key advantages. But it doesn't take much more than an inattentive cook and Fox News on the TV to let it all slip away...
As sterile as a fast food store can be, they tend to limit proselytizing. If you're in full cognitive tilt, Fox News can be quite annoying...although CNN's new dumb-ass approach to news is just as bad.
So I shaved a few points for atmosphere. My real issue was with a half chicken that had spent far too much time on the spit, toughening just enough to turn once-tender meat into a chewy mass. Boston Market's version, on the other hand, came out glistening--though also rather dull.
Fortunately for local fans, Cowboy Chicken seasons each bird with such cunning the skin seems to leap on your palate, bouncing between salt, pepper and natural juices. Boston Market resigns its chicken to a wash of briny flavor edged by sweetness--by no means bad, mind you, just a little on the common-denominator side.
And Cowboy Chicken smells right. Boston Market had been Lysoled by one of the teenage employees.
I decided ahead of time to ignore the evidence if I spotted heat lamps or hot boxes. Side dishes, on the other hand, are an integral part of the meal. Both places serve woeful bread. Cowboy Chicken's sides--sweet corn and spicy fried okra--finally completed the rally, outdistancing the tired, starchy corn served by the Bostonians.
So call it a 19-13 victory for Texas...although the margin should have been larger. Seinfeld re-runs instead of Fox News and they'd have tacked on a few more points. Pull the chicken off before it starts to mummify, it'd be a convincing win.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.