Monday, March 14, 2011

Exposed: Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken

I have a dark, dirty, shameful secret. It’s so absolutely revolting, that it makes even the wildest Hollywood sex scandal look tame. At this point, I’d rather be confessing to a torrid affair, or an embezzlement scheme, or even a past life as a coffee-stand bikini barista, but no… what I have to tell you is far more disgraceful and humiliating. As your resident food blogger and self-proclaimed food LOVER, someone who wants you to believe I know what I’m talking about in the kitchen, I regret to tell you that until last night…

I had never roasted a chicken. I know, it’s revolting—feel free to take a moment to gather your composure, divert your eyes to hide the disappointment. I’ll understand. I was disappointed in myself too. But now...well, friends, now I’m glad that I held out as long as I did. Because if I had been roasting chickens left and right this whole time, I may have passed up this unassuming little number. If I was a bird-in-the-oven a week type of gal, I would probably be coating them with truffle oil and dusting them with gold, at this point. Or at least using lots of garlic, citrus, fats, and spices; brines, marinades, and rubs. But alas, I didn’t truss up a hen and call her dinner until last night, and I used the one-and-only roast chicken recipe people need to know about: Thomas Keller’s.

I did my fair share of research before deciding to make Keller my first. I mean, obviously Thomas Keller is a god among men, but a chicken roasted with nothing but salt and pepper?! No butter or oil? No basting mid-way through?! No sage under the skin and lemons inside?! I read the reviews. I knew that everyone who had ever tried Keller’s simple roast chicken found themselves swooning at the thought of that salty, crispy, crackly skin. The ruling was out, it was a winner. But I still had to see it, and taste it, to believe it.

First of all, if you’ve been intimidated by roasting a whole chicken, don’t be. Keller’s method is so simple and easy, a child could do it. Or even a chicken. Seriously, it’s such a cinch, a chicken could do it. And really, if you’re gonna be a cooked chicken, this is the way to go. It was juicy and tender, but in a hearty, meaty kind of way. The salt and pepper made a crunchy shell on the skin, but also infused the entire bird with rich, savory, full flavor. With no other seasoning but an optional sprinkle of thyme when it came out of the oven, this was the most delicious roast chicken, I dare say it, I’ve ever had (sorry mom). I would even go as far to call it mouth-watering—a phrase I rarely use for a generally flavorless, bland, boring bird.

So what if I’m a late chicken-roasting bloomer? I think it’s high time you wipe that judgment and look of superiority off your smug little mug, and forget everything you ever knew about roast chicken. Then, with an open mind…go out, buy yourself a whole chicken, learn how to truss it for uniform cooking (and lovely pictures), throw it in a really hot oven for a fairly short time, open the windows and turn on the fan to avoid the smoke alarm, and make yourself the best damned roast chicken you’ll ever have.

Dirty little secrets never tasted so good.

*FYI—in an effort to not break the law and to respect the artistic rights of my fellow recipe-creators, I recently re-read the copyright laws for recipes. While it’s ok to copy a list of ingredients from a recipe, it is unlawful to copy the detailed preparation method. I generally don’t feature recipes on this site that aren’t my originals, or that I haven’t adapted with new ingredients, measurements, or preparation methods. And, if I do use someone else’s recipe, I’m sure to give credit where it’s due. Thomas Keller’s chicken recipe, however, is so beautifully written, that I chose to link to it rather than adapt it. Any man that advises eating a full roast chicken with your fingers, well, that man should be recognized. Luckily for me (and you) Epicurious was able to adapt Keller’s recipe with his language from his cookbook, Bouchon.

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