I’d never roasted a chicken before. I picked up two 4-pound organic chickens at Costco and planned on giving one to Firecracker to make in her slow cooker, but as the weather got warmer I realized my oven roasting time was about to vanish. So I opened all the windows and tried to remember what I’d internalized from reading Julia Child, and watching her show with Jacques Pépin. “Jack” as she called him, is a knife wizard and an extremely pragmatic chef, while still honoring his French culinary roots. He shares many helpful shortcuts from his years as an apprentice, and his roast chicken recipe can be recited in 24 seconds:
You can tweet it. Set the oven to 425. Roast it 40 minutes on one side, baste it, and 40 minutes on the other side. End it with the breast side down so the juices soak in. That’s it. Sure, you can rub it with salt and pepper and olive oil or butter, like I did; I put it on a bed of baby carrots, a sliced onion, and a cubed celery root. The prep, including cutting off the wingtips and removing the giblet bag, cutting the vegetables, took about ten minutes. In an hour and a half, I had one of the best chickens I’d ever tasted, and certainly the best I’d ever made.
When I flipped the chicken at the 40 minute mark, I added some olive oil to the pan because the veggies were dry. The chicken released a flood of juices, so this was unnecessary. When it was done I let the bird rest and put the roasting pan on the stovetop, added white wine, and deglazed the sticky bits off the pan, and let the alcohol cook off while I carved it. I’d also never carved one before, so I found this video: How to carve a chicken which helped, but the chicken was fall-apart juicy. The breasts were juicy as Jacques promised. I thought I’d removed the wishbone but actually I was reaching up the chicken’s ass, apparently, and had broken two of its ribs. (That’s a secret Mixed Martial Arts move.) The wishbone was no impediment to carving this small bird and came out clean.
I put the carcass in a freezer bag and saved it for gumbo or soup. You’ll be seeing it again! With the vegetables in wine, the dish was one of the best I’ve ever made. I had a drumstick, a wing, a breast, and an oyster. The tenderloins even fell off the breasts, and I had one while I was carving. I saved half for lunch tomorrow. Yeah, with the amount of weightlifting, mixed-martial arts, and idiotic exercises like tire flipping I’m doing, half a chicken is lunch. This would have been even better with the addition of garlic, spices of your choice, or if I’d had more prep time and could have patted the chicken dry and left it salted in the fridge for a day to make the skin extra crispy. That was the one deficiency; the skin wasn’t very crisp because all the fat soaked into it, even though I trimmed a lot of the hanging fat and skin off the neck.
Next recipe? Christopher Walken’s chicken with pears:
© 2010 Thomas Pluck.