I'm intimidated by large pieces of raw meat, I just don't really know what to do with them. Not naturally gifted in the kitchen, I avoid any meat other than ground beef, chicken breast, and sausage. I recently decided it was due time to master roasting a chicken—it represents everything I love and stand for: healthy, delicious, and inexpensive. The only word missing from that list is "easy," so I set out looking for a simple recipe and, thanks to legendary chef Thomas Keller, I found exactly what I was looking for. He believes the secret to juicy roast chicken is it being as dry as possible while it roasts (no butter, no wine, no liquid at all, except for what the chicken itself secretes).
One of my pet peeves is wordy recipes, they stress me out. The succinct summary of this recipe is as follows:
Cover chicken in a generous amount of salt and bake at 450° for one hour.
Et, voilà! Succulent, crisp-crusted chicken.
If this got your attention, here are more details:
1. Buy a chicken. Ideal chicken is farm raised and 2-3 pounds.
2. Preheat oven to 450°.
3. Rinse chicken and dry thoroughly, inside and out.
4. Salt and pepper the inside cavity.
5. Truss the chicken. Sounds intimidating, but just means tying the chicken parts tightly together so it cooks evenly and the breasts stay moist. I used standard household string. Watch this one minute Martha Stewart demo.
6. Put chicken in roasting pan. I used my rectangular Pyrex baking dish.
7. Generously salt the outside of the chicken with about 1 Tablespoon salt. You want to see it covered in granules.
8. Put chicken in the oven. Avoid opening the oven as it cooks, you want it as blazing hot as possible. Just think, every time you open it, you're making the skin less crispy!
9. After 50-60 minutes, remove chicken from oven. If you're concerned about whether or not it's done, slice the skin between leg and thigh to make sure juices are clear.
10. Let chicken sit for 15 minutes. This is a very important step, it will absorb the juices in the cavity during this time.
11. While chicken sits, add a few spoonfuls of freshly chopped thyme or rosemary to the juices in the pan. Baste the chicken with the sauce. You can use dried herbs instead.
And now, time to eat. I recommend serving the chicken with a baguette and a simple salad. And don't forget the luscious sauce! As Keller says, you'll start with a knife and fork and finish with your fingers. Bon Appétit!
***Later this week, I'll post an article about how to carve a roast chicken; it's a learned art indeed. Next week, I'll share a simple way to turn your leftover chicken into a nutrient-packed bone broth chicken soup.