Monday, January 24, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

Over the weekend, I decided to try roasting a chicken for the first time. I consider myself fairly competent at throwing together a pasta dish, grilling or sauteing chicken or steak, and whipping up a simple vinaigrette and salad, but I have avoided more complicated dishes involving proteins until recently. But, having done fairly well with a pot roast and the coq au vin, I decided to do a simple roast chicken. And, in my opinion, it turned better than I could have hoped.

I think the key with roast chicken is simply getting quality ingredients. So, I stopped by Whole Foods, bought the whole bird (which was only 20 cents more per pound than at Safeway) and some fresh herbs. When I got home, I first left the chicken on the counter to get to room temperature. According to Thomas Keller (I saw a clip of him roasting a bird) , this is done to allow the bird to cook more evenly. I don't know if this is scientifically true, but he's Thomas "French Fucking Laundry" Keller, so I'll give him a benefit of a doubt.

All I did with this particular roast was: season the cavity liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper; prick a lemon with a skewer and stuff it and some fresh sprigs of thyme into the cavity; truss the bird with some butcher's twine; place it in an oven-safe saute pan; liberally season the top with coarse sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and chopped fresh thyme; and place it in the over at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. After I pulled it out, I let it rest for about 5 minutes, carved it, plated the breast, thigh, and leg, squeezed a little juice from the lemon into the pan juices over and spooned the elixir over the meat.

The breast was moist, the thighs and legs thoroughly cooked, and the oysters of the bird were absolutely delicious. The coarse sea salt formed a crust on the skin, giving it a wonderfully crisp texture. And the pan juice, by itself without any additional trimmings or tricks, was the perfect sauce. Basically, this was a really satisfying dish that practically cooked itself.

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