Simplicity + Roasted Chicken
The world would be a better place if we ate more roasted chicken.
For those of us that are hard wired to constantly chase after formative life experiences, we often default to exploring the exotic and new. From a food perspective we often get so tangled up in confit this and sous vide that, such that we often forget that thoughtfully prepared simple dishes are wonderfully grounding. This culinary grounding is especially important when you’re working in a restaurant, and you’re much more subject to fine dining fatigue. Before my grandma passed away with dementia last spring, in one of her last few cognizant moments she talked about spring chickens being the best of the best, and I think she was on to something.
Everyone’s got their own version of roasted chicken. In college, we used to stuff the cavity of a chicken with a half full can of Schlitz and prop it upright on the grill. We called it the “Master Cylinder”. Some people like their chickens oven roasted and stuffed with lemon and herbs with a little butter slipped under its skin. Or, you could spatchcock the chicken (or, butterfly it) and roast it with a good dry rub. For me, when I want the simplicity of roasted chicken, I go with a simple recipe. A good chicken, some fresh thyme, kosher salt, and hand cracked black pepper. Heat your oven to a ripping hot temp of 450 degrees. This temp is the best compromise for getting a crispy skin along with juicy cooked meat. Start with a young 2-3 pound free range chicken, these smaller and younger chickens are more flavorful and take best to this method. First things first, wash and dry your chicken and truss it up. If you don’t know how to truss a bird, it’s a worthwhile thing to learn. Try it out on your roommate the next time they come home drunk. Season the chicken (not your roommate) by “raining” the salt down it instead of rubbing it in. Be generous with the salt, as there’s a lot of meat to season. I like to be able to see the crystals of salt forming somewhat of a crust on the bird. Give it a good hit of black pepper too. My favorite roasting pan is a well seasoned heavy cast iron skillet that I bought back in college. I learned this out of desperation, so be resourceful and dig up whatever heavy roasting “pan” you might have. Slap your trussed and seasoned chicken in roasting pan and put it on the middle rack of your 450 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Resist your temptation to baste the chicken while it’s cooking, that will come later. For now, we want as dry of a heat as possible – which is also why we didn’t stuff the cavity. We want a roasted chicken, not a steamed one. While your chicken is cooking, trim and chop some fresh thyme. When your chicken is done and screaming hot, bring it to your range top and carefully tip up the pan so that the juices gather on one end. Toss your freshly chopped thyme in the juices and mix them around. It’ll sizzle and splatter from the moisture content in the thyme, but don’t freak out…you’re a cold blooded professional, after all. Once your thyme is well infused into the chicken juices, baste this mixture over the top of the chicken. There should be enough heat left in the juices to finish crisping up the skin of the chicken. And, as with any meat, let it rest several minutes before carving it.