Happy New Years everyone! Hopefully you spent yours cocktail in hand, celebrating with friends or family. I was hoping to share some festive, bourbon related cocktail we’d be drinking to ring in the new year, but Mike and I have both down and out with wretched head colds, so our evening was mundane at best.
Roast chicken is one of my absolute favorite meals, and I love this simple recipe from Thomas Keller. It produces perfectly moist, juicy, roast chicken every time with minimal fuss. You literally pop it in the oven, leave it alone, and pull out a perfectly roasted bird an hour later.
Trussing the bird is a critical step in keeping your chicken super moist – please don’t skip this step! It can be awkward the first couple times you do it, but the end results are worth the extra effort. There are many different methods for trussing birds, but I particularly like Keller’s method (which I’ve included below) because it really plumps up the breast meat and makes a beautiful presentation.
My Favorite Simple Roast ChickenFrom Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Serves 2 to 4 I ‘ve added a few notes of my own below. Quality ingredients, and the simple technique of trussing will produce incredible results. Small chickens can be hard to find in big chain grocery stores – if you’re having a hard time finding smaller birds, try a local farmer’s market. The end results will be well worth the extra trip. If you’re not sure how many chickens you’ll need, I’d recommend roasting an extra one to be safe – the leftovers are great for chicken salad. One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken Kosher salt Finley ground black pepper 2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional) Unsalted butter & Dijon mustard for serving
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better. My note – if I know I’m roasting chicken for dinner, I’ll do this in the night before, and let the chicken air-dry in the fridge overnight, so I just have to truss and roast when I get home that day.
Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it’s a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.
To truss the chicken, place the legs towards you. Tuck the wing tips under the bird, so that they’re resting under the breasts. Cut a piece of kitchen twine about 3-feet long, and center under the neck end of the breast. Pull the twin cup over the breast toward you. Knot the twine, pulling it tight to plump the breast, and then tie one additional knot to secure. Bring the ends of the twine, up and around in a big loop around the ends of the drumsticks, and straight up. Tightly tie as before, to pull the drumsticks together and form a compact bird.
Now, salt the chicken—I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it’s cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.
Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone—I don’t baste it, I don’t add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don’t want. Roast it until it’s done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.
Remove the twine. Separate the middle wing joint and eat that immediately. Remove the legs and thighs. I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I’m cooking with. But I take the chicken butt for myself. These are the cook’s rewards. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is not meant to be superelegant. Slather the meat with fresh butter. Serve with mustard on the side and, if you wish, a simple green salad. You’ll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it’s so good. My Note – I like to serve with plain white rice as well.