There is this thing about a roast chicken that people love and loathe all at the same time. I think because many cooks can’t make one consistently. For me, there is no simpler, more rewarding meal than a roast chicken and a few side dishes. Years ago, my sister-in-law, asked, “What’s your secret to making that delicious roast chicken? Mine always takes too long to cook and is super dry.” I replied, “it’s really simple: salt, pepper, and a hot oven.”
In my lifetime, I must have roasted thousands of chickens at this point, and there is no doubt I’ll roast more in my future. I remember that ah-ha moment when I learned the trick to roasting a chicken that changed my experience from dry and/or rubbery chicken to perfectly moist and tender chicken every time. I was living in Paris, working in a Michelin starred restaurant and I watched one of my colleagues liberally coat the outside and the inside of a fresh chicken with salt and pepper. The chicken was then trussed, left to sit to come to room temperature, and then roasted whole in a hot oven. It was delicious. At the time I thought it had to be this particular type of French chicken, or the commercial oven it was cooked in. I was wrong.
I’ve since learned it’s very simple to achieve a tender, juicy roast chicken every time. And, the trick really is, salt, pepper and a very hot oven. The chicken you use does also make a difference, and here in Chicago, I’ll spend a little more on an organic chicken from Whole Foods, buying two or more when they are on sale and freezing one for later use.
You can choose to truss or not to truss – my friend Robin Mather is a “trusser.” I don’t think it’s necessary, but I will say, it does help to more evenly cook the bird, especially if the bird is larger than 4 or 5 pounds. For a small 3-pound organic chicken I rarely truss them. There isn’t a recipe so to speak, just a technique. Here’s how I go about roasting a 3-pound chicken:
Heat an oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Liberally scatter kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on the inside and outside of the chicken – I use about a Tablespoon and a half of kosher salt and about half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper for a 3-pound organic chicken.
Tuck the wings under the bird and lay it on the prepared sheet pan. Let the chicken come to room temperature, about 20 minutes, before roasting.
Place the bird in the hot oven, turning the pan around once during the roasting. You’ll know when the chicken is cooked when the skin is deep, golden brown and the juices coming from the insides when the pan is tipped are clear. This can take anywhere from 45 – 60 minutes.
I don’t let the bird rest when it’s finished, rather I take advantage of the roasting time and get my side dishes made while the bird is roasting. I like to bring the bird to the table and cut it up on a cutting board set into a sheet pan to catch all the juices immediately after roasting. I will also save all the bones from a roasted chicken and freeze them till I have several carcasses. I use these roasted chicken carcasses to make a roasted chicken stock – super rich and delicious.
In celebration of these last few weeks of summer 2019, I served this roast chicken with farm fresh vegetables and a citrus vinaigrette.
Puree the lemon juice, orange juice, cider vinegar, shallot, garlic, oregano, mustard, salt and pepper using an immersion blender in a resealable jar (I use a mason jar) until smooth, about 1 minute.
With the blender running, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream until the mixture has thickened and is emulsified, about 1 minute. Serve at room temperature, refrigerating any remaining dressing. The dressing keeps well in the refrigerator for a week, and actually tastes better the second day.