Classics can be phenomenal when done right. A simple roast chicken dish could be the best thing you ever eat.
The quest, a perfect simple roast chicken. A humble and deeply satisfying dish but somehow as elusive as a unicorn or five leaf clover. How hard can it really be to roast a simple chicken? But yet you eat at hundreds of different restaurants or homes and almost no chicken consistently tastes great. I mean the ‘lick your fingers clean I just had a revelation kind of roast chicken’. So what are the qualities of a great roast chicken? Let’s analyze the components and figure it out together.
Salty, crunchy, crispy skin
We all love potato chips. It satisfies the desire for salty, crunchy and fatty foods which is hardwired into our DNA. Roast chicken with that attribute is hands down the best. You can say you don’t like it but you’d only be lying to yourself. It’s one of life’s decadent and now completely guiltless pleasures. Maybe even the healthiest and wisest choice you could make. After 60 years of misinformation and bad science on cholesterol, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, responsible for the US dietary guidelines, have just changed their position on healthy animal fats. Looks like the research of Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the world studying the health effects of indigenous diets was correct. The new guidelines are set to be announced sometime in the next month. Steve Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told USA Today: “It’s the right decision. We got the dietary guidelines wrong. They’ve been wrong for decades.” Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), believes it’s difficult to get “too much” cholesterol in your diet. But you may very well be getting too little, and that can cause serious problems. Dr Mercola writes “It also plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e. the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories.” Once again we can blissfully eat animal fats again.
Moist, flavorful and juicy chicken
The second half of the equation is moist, flavorful and juicy chicken. Here is where the nexus of great chicken breeds and diet meet sustainability and commonsense. No longer are we locked in the world of unethically raised caged birds that people like Frank Purdue have championed for decades. Even large grocery store chains realize this and are offering natural and/or organic chickens options. You are what you eat. Luckily we all have access to great farmers market that sell real chickens who forage bugs and worms. Proper roasting and resting will take care of the moistness.
The general rules of proper roasting and eating of chicken
- Pick a free range bird about 3.5 pounds who is fed either an organic or natural diet.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Let warm up all the way before cooking bird.
- Season chicken with liberal amounts of sea salt, black pepper, herbs de Provence and piment d’ville or espelette pepper. Don’t worry conservative friends, here is the chance where liberal does good for you too. I promise Rush won’t kick you out of the Ditto club. Be sure to heavily salt the opening of the cavity. These are the crispiest pieces of crackly crispy chicken and, in my humble opinion, the true reward of whomever gets to bone the bird.
- Stuff half a lemon, a whole head of garlic cut in two and more fresh thyme and rosemary than you think. The lemon perfumes the bird in such a pleasant and nuanced way. Cooking is about building subtle layers that are almost imperceptible.
- Put a wire rack on a cookie sheet or sheet pan and roast bird 40 minutes breast side down. Yes, set your damned kitchen timer for this one, it’s science.
- Flip over and roast another full 40 minutes breast side up.
- Stand bird up with legs flailing in the air for 20 minutes before you cut the bird. The juices will redistribute throughout the bird and keep it juicy beyond imagination. Do not give into temptation, be strong.
- Always roast a whole bird. It is silly, more expensive and wasteful not to do the whole bird. You will end up with enough meals for a few days and two to three quarts of homemade chicken broth.
- Cut the breasts, wings, legs and thighs off. If you are smart you will eat both ‘oysters’ before anyone notices. The oysters are the tenderest piece of chicken that are located where the thigh bone connects to the carcass. Shh, don’t tell anyone.
- Eat the breast the first day then the dark meat the second. It almost sounds like a commandment so abide by it. The dude does.. And on the second day, God said… The breast comes out of the oven so beautifully juicy and tender yet somehow loses that quality by day two.
- Immediately make a chicken stock with the carcass, lemon, herbs and lemon. It will be so superior to any store bought chicken stock and far more useful and healthful.