If I asked you what the first thought that comes to your mind when I say,"Sunday night dinner," what do you think your reply would be? If I was a betting man (and I have been known to be), I'd wager that you'd say, "roasted chicken." Roasting a chicken is simultaneously the simplest of cooking endeavors as well as one of the most daunting. There are numerous techniques involving high heat or rotating or basting or putting butter under the skin or brining or standing on it on end with things shoved into it...you get the picture. So for tonight's version of roasted chicken, I decided to go with a super-simple method.
I am using a technique loosely based on one that I first read about in Chef Judy Rogers' The Zuni Café Cookbook. Basically, you salt your chicken ahead of time for a couple of days and let it sit in the refrigerator. You can read the original recipe here and I highly recommend owning this cookbook. I'm deviating from her recipe in a couple of ways. The first is that I'm only salting my chicken for 5 hours because that's all the time I had. I'm also not salting underneath the skin because...well...I didn't want to to take the extra step. In other words, I was lazy. But, hey, I'm about keeping it simple, right? The other thing that the original recipe stresses is that you should find a smaller bird that doesn't exceed 3.5 pounds. My bird was just shy of 5 lbs. So I figured it would take longer to cook and the salt wouldn't penetrate as deeply. So basically, I put salt on a chicken and put it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 5 hours. Then, I put it in an oven. Pretty easy, right?
Usually, I just put my chicken in a roasting pan or a big oven-proof skillet when I roast, but this time I used a rack and scattered some sliced potatoes, carrots and onions underneath it to roast and mingle with the delicious drippings that would fall from the chicken. I had to cook the vegetables a bit longer while the chicken was resting, but they are a real treat to accompany roasted chicken. I had a bunch of other vegetables that needed to get used, so I rounded the meal out with roasted asparagus, roasted beets, and cooked kale with beet greens and ramps thrown in as well.
I think that roasting a chicken that has been salted ahead of time is a winner. The meat was juicy and actually seasoned. The deeper you got into the meat, the less seasoned it was. So I can see why you would want to let it sit for a full day or too and also get the salt under the skin. This was really delicious roasted chicken. The only thing that I thought could have been improved was the color of the skin. It got crispy but not that deep, dark, golden-brown. I referred back to the recipe and noticed that it said to roast at a very high temperature - 475° to 500°. Next time I'll have to remember to really crank the oven. Or, maybe I'll just smear a little butter on it before it heads to the oven.
What's your tried and true method for roasted chicken?
Ingredients: 1 4.5-5 lb chicken, kosher salt
- Rinse your chicken and dry it thoroughly.
- Liberally sprinkle the chicken, inside and out, with salt.
- Allow it to sit, uncovered, in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours but preferably 24 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 425°. Actually, you should probably go higher for better browning - 475° to 500°.
- Put the chicken in a roasting pan and cook in the oven until the internal temperature of the thigh meat registers 165°. My almost-5 lb-chicken took about an hour and 15 minutes or so.
- Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes. This is important!
- Carve it up and eat.