There was a question on Ask Metafilter last year calling for good recipes with the fewest possible ingredients. There's some great stuff there, but where's the roast chicken? Roast chicken is the ultimate basic meal. It's filling enough to be dinner, and served with some mustard and potatoes or crusty bread you've got a complete meal with only four ingredients.
As is always the case with such basic recipes, you simply can't get away with using low quality ingredients. I understand the budget-conscious mindset and will buy cheaper chicken if it's going into a heavily-flavoured curry, but for roasting you have to buy the best. Free range is a sign of quality, but if you can, ask a trusted butcher to help you choose.
There are loads of techniques out there from compound butters to multi-temperature roasts, but who'd have thought the most straightforward recipe would come from Thomas Keller? Not surprisingly, it's also the best. I'm sure that at Per Se and The French Laundry he roasts his chickens suspended mid-air in a pressure-controlled bunker exactly 154 meters below sea level, but for home cooks the Bouchon method is very accessible. It will smoke out a kitchen that isn't well-ventilated, but some carbon monoxide poisoning is worth it for the crispy golden skin and juicy flesh.
Thomas Keller's roast chicken
- One small/medium (900g-1.35kg) chicken
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- Cracked black pepper
- 2 tsp minced thyme
1. Preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF. Rinse the chicken inside and out, and dry well with paper towels. Sprinkle all over with the salt and black pepper.
2. Truss the chicken and roast in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Test by piercing the thigh with a sharp knife — when cooked through, the juices will run clear.
3. Mix the thyme with the juices that have collected in the roasting pan, and baste the outside of the chicken with this. Rest for 15 minutes, then carve and serve.
You could stop there and enjoy it with butter, fresh bread, and some mustard. However on this particular occasion Rowan was coming around with some wine that needed drinking, so I felt compelled to dress it up a little. Not too much, though. On the side were some papas arrugadas — potatoes boiled in very salty water then drained and left wrinkly and encrusted with a fine later of salt — and a simple sauce of reduced chicken stock, crème fraiche, dijon mustard, and butter.
Rowan's 2003 Hahndorf Hill Chardonnay was subdued and had a subtle sweetness that matched perfectly with the chicken. I've drunk great wine with great food before, but this was one of the rare occasions where the food and wine really did work hand in hand. Life is good.