The title says it all...do we need another roast chicken recipe? No, probably not. But it's an undisputed classic, indisputably one of our favorites and there are a zillion variations and twists. People like that. People like that it's a blank slate food - a fairly mild canvas for delivering other flavors. And then the leftovers (I think that's what we like) - soup, stew, sandwiches, quesadillas? Oh yeah.
Despite being able to cover chicken will all kinds of sauces and toppings, a good chicken doesn't need much more than some salt. For a good roast chicken, especially if it's a mass-market bird to start, it seems like either a brine or a dry salting ahead of time makes a <strong>huge</strong> difference. Our chickens spend there lives just up the road, but they still get the salt if there's time. I like the salting as opposed to the brine, because it's easier, more flexible and the results are just fantastic. I think I read about it first in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook - you just get a nice dry chicken, sprinkle it well with salt/pepper and whatever other seasoning you want and let it sit in the fridge from overnight up to a couple days. Both the brining and the salting permeate the whole bird with flavor, make it moist and keep it tender. If you've never tried it, you'll never go back.
I like to butterfly the chicken (also known as "spatchcocking", but I can't say/type that without laughing, thanks to a sense of humor retained from my 12 year-old self). You just take a pair of kitchen shears and cut straight up the back on both sides of the backbone, and then flatten out the bird. I haven't figured out the whole removing the breastbone thing yet.
It cooks quicker, looks cooler and is easier to carve up afterwords.
This one just got some finely chopped rosemary along with the salt, which is great with chicken and convenient for us, as we haven't managed to kill our rosemary bush yet. Lemon zest is super too.
When we ate this last Saturday, we had it with a little bit of aioli for dipping it in (an unnecessary, but delicious indulgence), some food-processored white beans, a salad and some bread. Simple, tasty, great meal.
Roasted Chicken, The Way We Had It Last Weekend
Rinse and dry:
3-5 LB Chicken
If your kitchen obeys the same natural laws as ours, bigger chicken will take longer to cook.
Sprinkle chicken liberally with:
Pepper (not as much as the salt)
Fresh Rosemary, minced fine - (other herbs, lemon zest... all good)
Cover and put in the fridge for at least overnight.
Preheat oven to 450. Oil a cast iron pan (or other heavy pan big enough for chicken) lightly, and put it in the oven to get hot. Take it out when the oven is ready, and put the chicken in breast side down. Put it in for 20-30 minutes, more importantly, until the skin is starting to get some color and crisp up. Take it out, flip the bird, turn the heat down to 400, and leave it in until it's done.
There are a lot of recipes that start it breast up, flip once, and then flip again. Too much flipping I say, but you should try it. We should roast as many chickens as possible.