What’s for Dinner?
A no-fail recipe
-Michael Krondl, spicehistory.net
Like so many of life’s challenges, the solution to the perfect roast chicken can be resolved by shopping. Yes, shopping. Buy a good chicken and you’re half way there. What I mean by this is a real chicken: plump and pink. A bird that has had the good fortune to run around a little, preferably outside. Almost every supermarket across the country now sells these free-range birds. And if they’re organic, so much the better. It means they’re not full of pesticides and antibiotics. Whatever you do, avoid those yellow birds whose skin has looks they’ve been smeared with too much budget tanning cream. They’re cheaper, I know, and we’re in a recession, but if you knew how they were raised you wouldn’t flinch paying that extra dollar a pound for a free-range chicken. And when it comes to flavor and texture, there’s no contest.
So much for the hard part.
You’ll need about 2 hours, from start to finish to roast a 3 to 4 pound chicken, though only about 5 minutes will involve you doing something. First thing, take the chicken out of the fridge. Second preheat the oven to about 450 degrees. That will take about 20 minutes. While you’re waiting, take the little packet of giblets out of the chicken and do with them what you will. Then rub the chicken all over with salt and pepper, maybe a half teaspoon of each and then with a couple of tablespoons olive oil or some softened butter if you want to emulate Julia Child. Then cross the bird’s legs and tie them with a little cotton twine.
Now, set the bird breast-side-up on a roasting rack, in a roasting pan, and place in the middle of the oven with the legs to the rear. (The back of the oven is usually a little hotter so the dark meat cooks faster.) The chicken will take about an hour to roast. The easiest way to test it is to pick up the bird with a big fork and see if the juices coming out of the cavity are pink. If they’re clear or brown then you’re in business.
The next step is critical. Put the bird breast-side-down on a serving platter and let it sit at least 10 minutes. This allows the juices to run to the breast to make it nice and moist. While it’s resting you can pour off any fat from the roasting pan and pour in about a half-cup of chicken broth. Bring this to a boil and scrape the bottom to get the tasty brown bits. This is your gravy – or jus, as they call it in fancy restaurants. Finally, carve your chicken and serve. There’s probably enough there to feed three or four.