MY FAVORITE ROAST CHICKEN
IN A NECESSARY IF NOT RELIGIOUS FINALE, YOU ARE GOING TO PICK THROUGH EVERY LAST SNIPPETS OF OFFERINGS ADHERING TO THE REMAINING CARCASS
Hello friends. I am an absolute sucker for a good roast chicken recipe. As soon as I hear the words “roast chicken”, my mouth is watering and my stomach is rumbling. I’m sure I won’t be the only one.
If you were previously convinced that you know roast chicken, or how to do one right, well to that I say, I’m convinced that you don’t. This is a recipe forged through years of corrections, beginning from the inspiration of Thomas Keller’s roast chicken doused in thyme and garlic butter, and manipulated by my own techniques through experience, then re-polished through a vinegar bath anew. The chicken is not only accompanied by baby potatoes and garlics roasted inside its own grease, but – yes, I’m not done yet – but it has to, has to, be eaten with a runny sunny-side up. That’s right. Chicken and egg, I don’t know why you have to ask. This is now a roast chicken recipe, with its entirety, a simple elegant yet unbeatably tasty form of perfection, worthy of the ones who are willing to receive it justly.
Because, equally important to the recipe, there’s only a single, correct way to eat this chicken, or any roast chicken for that matter. One cannot claim to have had a proper roast chicken, if it wasn’t done this way. That is, you have to devour it with your absolute bare hands.
Assisted with a kitchen-scissor if needed, or not, I command you to tear apart this chicken from limb to limb with at least 8 of your best-able fingers. Undeterred by the occasional burns and shimmering under a coat of grease, your hands and your hands only, are the tool that’s going to snap the bones, tear through the flesh, pick up the crispy skin, pry the roasted garlics out from their husks, then sauce and mop everything up inside a puddle of thyme/garlic browned butter and runny yolks, and deliver them to the promised land. Then with ferocious enthusiasm, in a necessary if not religious finale, you’re going to pick through every last snippets of offerings adhering to the remaining carcass, the untold secrets of muscles around the neck, the films of meat in between the ribs, the skins along the back-bone and the twin crown-jewels of oysters… oh God oh God the oysters… Tell me you know where the fuck the oysters are, chicken-eaters!
Then at last, breath out, and let your rampant emotions settle. Use your remaining clean pinkies to wipe the grease off of your cheeks then lick them. Take a sip of water, then bow out.
The roast chicken and thyme/garlic browned butter is large based on Thomas Keller. The use of vinegar as marinate is from this month's issue of Bon Appetit.
- One 3 lbs (1500 grams) good quality, free-range chicken
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) rice vinegar
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
- 12 baby potatoes, or fingerling potatoes
- 1 head of garlic
- 2 sunny-side up eggs with runny yolks
- Coarse sea salt to serve
- 4 tbsp (57 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 grated garlic
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper (not black)
- Rinse/Clean well and make sure the cavity of the chicken is clean from any organs or blood clogs, then gently pat dry. Pour the rice vinegar evenly over the skin as well as the cavity of the chicken and distribute well with your hands. Let sit for 10 min, then discard any excess vinegar but do not rinse the chicken. Set the chicken on a baking-rack over a baking-sheet, then season it inside-out generously with good amount of fine sea salt and black pepper. Don't be stingy. Let sit for another 20 min to marinate and air-dry slightly. Now preheat the oven at 465F/240C.
- Use a toothpick to sew the skins around the opening of the cavity together, as well as the skins around the opening of the neck. This is important! It creates a sealed skin-suit that keeps the juice and moisture inside, and prevents the meat from drying out. I think this is more important than trussing/tying the chicken. Now twist/tuck the wing tip underneath itself, and tie the legs of the chicken together. Do this if you want a "classic roast chicken" look, but honestly I don't find it necessary. It actually prevents the skins of the inner thighs from crisping properly. So your call.
- In the baking-sheet where the chicken is going to be baked on, scatter baby potatoes (cut large ones in 1/2) and 1 head of garlic that's cut across from the middle (cut-side facing down), and season with salt'n pepper. Place the baking-rack with the chicken on top, WITH THE BREAST-SIDE FACING DOWN first. Roast the chicken on the middle-lower rack for 15 min, then turn it over with the breast-side up, and roast for another 20 min until golden and crispy all around. If your chicken is bigger, say 4 lbs, you may need 10 min more. In the last 10 min, if your chicken is browning too slowly or too quickly, turn the temperature up or down by 50F/10C to adjust.
- (*NOTE* Roasting breast-side down first is not typical, but I find that in home-ovens, the heat is usually the most intense from above, browning and drying the breasts that's facing up, way too quickly than the legs that are facing the sides. By baking the chicken breast-side down first, it give the legs a head-start, as well as giving you a more evenly browned chicken all around.)
- TO MAKE THE THYME/GARLIC BROWNED BUTTER: While the chicken's roasting, heat unsalted butter in a sauce pot over medium-high heat until it's about to brown, approx 3 min. Add the fresh thyme leaves, which should pop immediately in the hot butter. Once the popping starts to subside, turn off heat, then add the grated garlic and ground white pepper. Stir quickly to cook the garlic in the residual heat, then set aside.
- Once chicken's properly roasted, gently transfer it to a serving dish, and pour the thyme/garlic browned butter all over the chicken. Let rest for 10 min. Remove the roasted potatoes/garlic from the chicken-grease, and scatter around the chicken (save the grease! fantastic on vegetables!). To serve, remove the toothpicks and kitchen-strings. The juice from the cavity should run out into the dish, and gets mixed with the thyme/garlic butter. Assisted with a kitchen-scissor, start dismembering the chicken with your bare hands. Drizzle the butter/juice all over the pieces and the runny eggs (*avoid the crispy skins so they stay crispy!*), then eat with your hands and mop everything up... the yolks, the butter and juice, the meat and crispy skins... with great enthusiasm. Then pick the bones clean.
If you are willing to spend the time, you can brine the chicken with a pure-salt brine, then skip the salt in the first step.