Chicken

I know the world does not need another way to roast a chicken, so I won’t give you one.  And you definitely don’t need me to say that something from Thomas Keller is good – EVERYTHING from him is practically perfect!  However, considering there are numerous “famous” roast chicken recipes and techniques, I will elaborate on why his is my favorite – hands down.

Can you see it?  As if the perfectly crispy, crackled brown skin isn’t enough of a reason itself.  This is the kind of chicken that everyone eats the skin, picking and gnawing with their hands to get every little bit, leaving those little morsels stuck to your fingers where there is no escaping the fact that you must simply lick your fingers.  Its okay – in fact, you have to here.  And you have to because it is so good, you have abandoned any pretense of politeness after the first two bites.

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While it is also the simplest roast chicken I have ever tried, that reason alone does not make it my favorite.  I would gladly take multiple steps if I found they helped, but I am never more happy than with this simple way.

Without stuffing the chicken with citrus or garlic or herbs or adding any additional fat or sharing the pan with extra veggies or basting, there is no steam created, and so the bird really just roasts.  And at the higher temperature, the chicken cooks more quickly without drying out at all.

The other factor here is using the best chicken you can.  Organic, free range, directly from the farmer, etc.  I always try to use the best products I can – for numerous reasons, but when I know that nothing is going on the chicken besides salt and pepper there is no hiding a bad bird.  That, and I feel if I’m claiming to make something from Mr. Keller, there are no excuses for not using the best product.

This chicken is so great, that I don’t think you need much else on the table.  I always pair it with a  simple green salad, where I go a bit heavy on the acid to balance the fat in the chicken skin, and some good bread to soak up the juices.  Also some dijon mustard on the side, just like Mr. Keller suggests – I would have never really thought of that addition and boy, is it right on.  And wine, lets not forget that – this chicken needs wine – red or white is up to you – it can handle just about anything.

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Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken
not at all adapted from Thomas Keller, recipe found at epicurious.com
Click on the link to get the steps directly from Thomas Keller – I thought it was a bit much to cut and paste directly…I do suggest to read it though – his description of starting the attack in the kitchen is so true…

2-3 lb chicken**
kosher salt (about 1 T)
pepper
thyme
—-
dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Remove innards from chicken (likely in a bag) and discard.  Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  Now pat dry again – inside and out.  It is important that the chicken is REALLY dry so it doesn’t steam.  This step is present in every good roast chicken recipe I have seen.

Tuck the wings under and truss the chicken with kitchen twine.  If you aren’t sure how to do this, there are lots of videos online that show how.  If you are still nervous, don’t do it – don’t skip out on a great roast chicken at home because you don’t want to tie it up.

Place chicken in roasting pan (or oven safe sauté pan) and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Do not be afraid of the salt here – you will want to still be able to see the salt a bit after roasting.  Also season with pepper – TK says to taste, but since you won’t be tasting the raw chicken, I’d say about ½ – 1 teaspoon – I just go by sight.

*If you buy the chicken in advance of when you plan to cook it, you can salt it ahead of time – even a day or two.  The salt will really help flavor the chicken.  This is not in Thomas Keller’s version, but from  Zuni Cafe’s roast chicken – another great.

Roast the chicken in the hot oven until done, 50-60 minutes.  During this time do not open the oven door – it will lower the heat – you want the heat to stay high to keep the skin crisp and the chicken moist.

Remove from the oven sprinkle the thyme in the pan and then baste the chicken with the thyme and pan juices.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10-15 minutes.  During this time, the chicken will emit some juices, so I would recommend a welled board if possible.

Remove the twine, carve the chicken and serve immediately.  My favorite is with some toasted crusty bread to soak up the juices and dijon mustard.  TK also suggests butter, but I don’t think that is necessary and almost too rich.  A simple salad is also great way to round out the meal.

It’s so easy, roast chicken no longer has to be saved for Sunday dinner.

** I often get my chickens at Whole Foods, and rarely do they have birds that small, howver I just look for the smallest one I can find – usually closer to 4 lbs – and I have never had a problem.  But if you want more meat, I would suggest two chickens.  The larger birds are a bit leaner, and will dry out in the high heat and longer cooking.

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