Roasted Chicken

If you asked me, say, three weeks ago if I would make you a roast chicken you would have been laughed at. Nothing personal. It just had no place in my cooking vocabulary. To me, based on absolutely no facts what-so-ever, there was some sort of arcane knowledge and advanced skill needed to even buy a full wingy and leggy chicken. What a difference those twenty-one or so days make. What brought on this life-altering transformation in my thinking? Tom Colicchio. Sometime last week I was reading his Think Like a Chef in bed and just as L, who does a lot of martial arts, was just finally slipping off into some much needed sleep after a couple of days of very hard training, I nudged her awake.
“bwuh?” she queried.
“Oh L, are you still awake?” I turned the book toward her, “Since you’re up, look at this, I was thinking of roasting a chicken this week. How’s that sound, eh? Impressed?” She didn’t respond right away so I nudged her again.
“bwuh whuh, huh?” I held the book before her, pages flopping across her face, pointing out the glistening, rosemary crowned chicken that Colicchio had apparently made. Her teary eyes strained open a crack in the glare of my full spectrum, 90 watt night light (I’ll have to replace the shade one day). I held the book closer for her.
“Yup, ‘bout time I start roasting some fowl, yup, very manly—like bbq.” She was quiet for a moment as this sank in.
“Mm,” she noted.
“I know! Bet you didn’t think I’d ever roast one, did you? In roasting you just gotta remember the basics: brown, gently roast, baste, and rest.” I could hear L gently snoring in agreement beneath the tent of Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef. I planned the roast for the weekend.

On our regular Saturday visit to the St Lawrence Market L for some reason had no memory of our conversation and couldn’t figure out why I was buying a 3½ pound organic, free-range capon from Manos Meats. A capon is a very young rooster that has been castrated. They say a castrated rooster that makes a good roasting bird. Without nackers, these little guys have no sex drive, they spend their days eating and lazing in the shade wondering what hens are for until they become little fatty fatty boobalatties. We got it home and I followed the recipe exactly—well, as close as I could.

I started off by rubbing the chicken inside and out with the kosher salt and pepper. Once seasoned it’s time to tie up the little guy, also known as “trussing”. The facially-pierced young butcher at the local supermarket was kind enough to supply me with three feet of twine. I assumed he gave me exactly as much as I would need so I began to fumble with string and chicken in an embarrassing attempt to wrangle and rope it. For the next five or so minutes, I flipped and flopped this bird, got tangled up with string and skin-flaps, I got to know this capon very well. I was clearly missing something int Colicchio’s explaination, being a more visual learner I had to pull out the Joy of Cooking and look at the trussing diagram. Within a couple of minutes I had succeeded, albiet poorly. According to Jacques Pepin, the purpose of “proper” trussing is so the bird is easier to handle, it keeps it’s shape and it roasts evenly. My trussing technique proved to be somewhat less than “proper” being that the chicken continually Houdinied his little wings loose. It was suggested that I should have chopped off the wing tips at the first joint (and Pepin adds any other small tips as well) but I thought Colin, I’d named him by this point (and given him a bit of a back story), Colin had had enough things cut off him in his short life (and what a heroic life it was, what with the unbelievable single handed rescue of all those hens in the big coop fire of ought-six, made all the more amazing considering he didn’t know what hens were for). Besides, I like crispy wing tips, the removal is more for aesthetics than anything.

I got the peanut oil shimmering and began the browning phase of the roasting, both sides and then on his back and into the oven for 20 minutes. Once the timer went off, I tossed in some unsalted butter and put it back in to roast for another 30 minutes. I took it out frequently to brush the skillet butter and drippings all over to keep Colin well basted. When it was done and resting I added white wine to the chicken drippings in the skillet along with some garlic and lemon juice and made a really nice pan gravy. Tom Colicchio doesn’t mention this but going with the idea of his book he most likely would approve.

And there you have it. I figured out that no arcane knowledge was necessary, roasting was far easier than I thought. Like a mantra I repeated Colicchio’s advice over and over: brown, gently roast, baste, and rest. The meal, served with a mixed green salad with a mustard vinaigrette, was enjoyed by both of us. L even had seconds. So now if you ask me if I would make you a roast chicken, I’ll still laugh at you, and then start the oven.

So later that night as I was rereading the roasting chapter of Think Like a Chef, I felt proud of my newly aquired skill and decided to follow the book further to the next recipe. I turned to L who was snuggled deep under the covers beside me and nudged her.

“Hey L? What do you think about a pan-roasted striped bass next week, or maybe halibut? Yup, I think it’s about time...”



• 1 3½ pound free-range capon
• kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
• 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
• 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
• 1 tbsp peanut oil
• 2 tbsp unsalted butter
• pinch fleur de sel

1. Heat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5. Rinse the chicken and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Season the chicken inside and out with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, stuff the rosemary and thyme inside the cavity, then truss.

2. Heat the peanut oil in a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat until it “moves easily across the pan.” Place the chicken on its side in the skillet and brown, about 7 minutes. Turn and brown the other side, about 7 minutes more. Turn the chicken breast-side up and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast for about 20 minutes, then add butter. Continue roasting, basting (I used a brush) occasionally, until the thigh juices run clear, about 30-35 minutes more. Remove the chicken from the oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, then carve and serve sprinkled with fleur de sel.


myron said...

hungry. need more recipe.

Anonymous said...

sounds delish. wanna try another roast chicken recipe? google "keller's favorite roast chicken". it should be the first choice that pops up - it's an epicurious link. from one of the best chef's (some say the best) in the country. it is absolutely the easiest recipe ever: chicken, salt and pepper. yet it is still the best bird i have ever eaten. so simple. so good.

Paul said...

Thanks for the Keller recipe, abadeeba. Simplicity is the key. I'll definitely give this a go.

alex said...

Wow this looks absolutely good and probably taste delicious. I can’t wait to try this at home.