The main thing we cook on the rotisserie is poultry, both chickens and guinea hens. It would also be good for other roasts of all sorts, and I need to start using it for pork, beef, and veal. But for now, it's about chicken. I bought a couple of them on sale at the supermarket — two for the price of one, which is a deal I can't resist (just over six euros for two 3 lb. chickens).
These particular chickens were poulets fermiers (farm-raised chickens) and carried the Label Rouge that is supposed to be proof of good quality. The label also says « élevé en plein air » — raised outdoors, or free-range. I'm not sure what that means in detail, but it must be better than battery-raised chicken — birds raised in cages.
And these are really good chickens. I know, because we've already cooked and eaten one. The other one went into the freezer. I decided to season the chicken with rosemary and garlic. To do that, I cut fresh rosemary growing in the garden, pulled the leaves and new growth off the big branches, and chopped that all up with a big knife.
Press four garlic cloves into a bowl, and then add the chopped rosemary, two or three tablespoons of softened butter, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper. With a fork, mash all that into a paste, adding a little olive or other vegetable oil if you need it for texture. Then spoon the rosemary paste into the cavity of the chicken. Use a skewer to close the cavity up, especially if you're going to cook the bird on a spit. You don't want all the butter to leak out during cooking.
Paint the bird with olive oil and put in on the rotisserie to start cooking at 230ºC / 450ºF. Leave it for 20 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 200ºC / 400ºF and let it continue cooking for another 40 minutes. If the chicken starts to get too brown, turn the oven down to 180ºC / 350ºF.
One thing I've discovered by trial and error is that it's good to put a pan of liquid it under the chicken while it's cooking on the rotisserie. The cooking juices and fat from the chicken drip into the pan of liquid (water, wine, or broth) and don't just burn and smoke on a dry oven pan or on the bottom of the oven. And you end up with a pan of flavorful jus that you can serve as is or thicken to make gravy. The steam from the pan of liquid helps to cook and tenderize the chicken, keeping it moist.
The next evolutionary stage in my cooking method has involved adding some vegetables to the pan of liquid under the bird. Potatoes, for example, with just a little water to keep them from sticking to the pan. That's what they do at the open-air markets in France when they cook dozens of chickens on huge rotisseries. You can buy the potatoes, which often are cooked with diced carrot, celery, and onion in big trays under the rotisserie, where all the chicken fat and juices can drip down on them during the cooking.
This time, I decided to cook Belgian endives under the chicken. First I sautéed the endives in butter with lemon juice, and then I added a little wine, some diced carrot and onion, and a bay leaf. When the endives were partially cooked, I put the chicken in the oven with the pan of endives underneath and let it cook. Endives can benefit from long cooking, and the chicken juices dripping on them just made them all that much more delicious.