Friday, March 4, 2011

Simple Home Cooked Roast Chicken, Recipe by Thomas Keller

Roast Chicken by Susan Lee
Can you guess which one is taken w/ my Canon 7D and iphone?

I recently rediscovered cooking to be therapeutic and rewarding, especially when you cook something that seems too difficult to do, but somehow, you manage to cook it well on your first try. Roasting a chicken was just that -- it seems daunting because you're cooking a whole bird, but on my first try - I got it right! And, I can't tell you how "great" of a feeling that was! (think of the "dance of joy" from the tv show, Perfect Strangers).

I can understand someone's fears of roasting a chicken - believe me, I had my own. So, understandably so, roasting a chicken seems difficult because you have to cook the whole bird and as you know, or as you are finding out, chicken is one of those meats that you have to cook thoroughly, similar to pork, otherwise -- well, lets just say, otherwise, you'll find yourself in the bathroom as your body rejects the food. Yes, salmonella. But, putting salmonella aside, I think the hardest part about roasting a chicken is the "trussing" part, i.e. tying the legs and wings close to the body so the bird can cook evenly in the oven. After you have that down, the rest is easy - trust me.

Here are some of my general comments about the recipe and how I went about my roasting my chicken (along with some tips and errors that can save you time):
  • Chicken selection. Do you choose a roaster or a regular bird? Since this was my first time, I selected a roaster since I was "roasting" a chicken -- however, I don't think it truly matters and in retrospect, would probably have chosen a regular bird. A roaster is generally a little older than normal birds (lives 14 weeks vs. the average bird at 7 weeks) and is a bigger bird (5-8 lbs vs. 5 lbs or less). My guess also is a roaster will be fattier than a regular chicken.
  • Salt and pepper only? Yes, salt and pepper does wonders for this bird. I believe this is true even with pork and beef! As a tip, I placed salt and pepper in a separate bowl, so that once I touch the chicken, I know I'm not touching anything else but that bowl (yes, lets not spread salmonella). As the recipe states, place salt and pepper inside the cavity, truss it and then, salt the rest of the chicken. Instead of just "salting" the chicken, I also placed the mixture of salt and pepper all around the chicken. If you're wondering what the salt does? It actually makes the skin "crispier" and keeps the moisture in ... The thinking is similar to when you bake salt encrusted fish -- it comes out extremely moist (as least the food cooking channels say so!) - or at least that is my common sense justification.
  • The notes for this recipe mention not to cook anything else with it (i.e. vegetables; and even notes to make sure the bird is completely dry). This is to avoid a "steam" chicken that makes the skin and meat soggy... However, some reviewer notes said they had issues with smoke coming out from the oven. As a precaution, I made sure all my windows were open while I was cooking the chicken to prevent any smoke detectors from going off. From my experience, there wasn't a lot of smoke, though I did hear the "crackling" and the "juices of the bird" as it was roasting ...
  • I did not know how to truss a chicken, so I watched this video and just found this one that is simpler and more direct. Watch it a few times, and you'll figure out how to tie the legs and wings to the body.
photo to the left: my first trussed chicken. photo taken w/ my iphone

  • Place the chicken on a roasting pan. I didn't spray my pan, so when the chicken was cooked, I had to scrap off the bottom. To remedy this, you can either 1) cook the chicken on a roasting rack - thus, the bird will cook more evenly; and if you don't have a roasting rack, spray the roasting pan with non-stick spray, or place aluminum foil on the bottom of the chicken (that way its easier for clean-up)
  • General rule of thumb for cooking chicken is -- it should cook for 15-20 minutes per pound of chicken (depends on temperature in the oven). I had a 5 lb chicken, so I cooked it for 1. hour and 15 minutes (probably could have kept it another 5-10 minutes). Or, if you have an instant read thermometer, my research says that if the breast register 160 degrees and the thigh registers 165-170 degrees then its ready. For more info, I found this site that gives you a chart of roasting times based on temperatures.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, DO NOT into the chicken until after it has rested for 15 minutes - this allows the juices to redistribute throughout the bird, making for a moister chicken. And as an added bonus, the chicken will continue to cook a little longer (i.e. carryover cooking)
  • The recipe calls for unsalted butter, thyme and dijon mustard. Since the recipe didn't state to melt the butter (just to spread it)... I decided to melt the butter in a pan, then added the thyme and mustard, and brushed the mixture onto the bird as it was resting. It gives it a nice "refreshed" golden brown color. Yum. I also served the chicken with mustard on the side.
  • Drippings. Surprisingly, there was a lot of oil at the bottom of the pan, which makes me the believe that the roaster was quite fatty (and thankfully it melted away into the pan). You can use these drippings to make a gravy.
Overall, the roast chicken was extremely moist and tasty -- and I would highly recommend this recipe for someone who wants to make their first roast chicken. The recipe was relatively easy, with trussing as the hardest part of the process - but once mastered, this really is a simple recipe. Two of my friends came over for my "trial run" and they loved it! and I of course, continued to do the "Dance of Joy" with a sigh of relief! Phew!

There are a whole bunch of other recipes out there that include roasting a chicken with rosemary, or lemon, or garlic or anything else you can think of ; and there are recipes that say to brine the chicken first (vs. this method of just salting the chicken and then baking)... so the type and the way you roast your chicken is truly up to you. however, we know this recipe works!

Thank you Thomas Keller for sharing your recipe on Epicurious!


by Chef Thomas Keller of Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, French Laundry, Per Se, Ad Hoc

Photo is Thomas Keller from The South In My Mouth Blog

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

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.

October 2004
by Thomas Keller

Left photo is with my Canon and the Right is with my iphone!

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