epicurious.com: Thomas Keller's favorite roast chicken

As one of the food-obsessed, I eventually sought out the procedure to the perfect roast chicken. It's a staple of a good cooking arsenal, perfectly suitable for casual meals as well as special occasions. A roast chicken makes guests feel pretty special either way.

In my search, I stumbled across this recipe from Thomas Keller of the famed French Laundry in Napa Valley. (Hooray, internet!)

(photo from epicurious.com)

Here's the recipe, as it appears on epicurious.com:

One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)

For serving:
Unsalted butter
Dijon mustard

Preheat 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.

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.

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. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip—until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat 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.
  • rinse and thoroughly dry your chicken
  • salt and pepper it well
  • the magic temperature is 450º degrees Fahrenheit
  • the magic time is 50–60 minutes
  • I second Keller's recommendation to enjoy the chicken with a bit of mustard
My additional cooking notes:
Chickens in the average grocery store seem to run large—4–5 lbs. Fortunately, the same timing and temperature work just fine with birds of this size. I've tried them a few times, but Purdue chickens have more fat and not as much flavor, so I go for organic and/or free-range chickens. The birds run smaller, the skin cooks through better, and I could swear the chickens taste more...well, like chicken.

Modifications and lazy things I do:
I don't truss. I obsess over having crispy skin and trussing leaves soft spots. In addition, I either start the bird breast side-down and flip it at the 45-minute mark, or use the "Eiffel tower" device as mentioned in this video of Christopher Walken roasting chicken. Don't worry if you pierce the skin. Everything seems to stay moist despite that. I guess if I had my way, I would rotisserie this baby. But sadly, no room for a rotisserie in the kitchen.

I promise photos of my own roast chickens to come in the future...

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