a home cook with notions & an appetite
In Bon Appétit’s March 2012 issue, a promise of a simple roast chicken was made. Two-stage cooking would transform 3 simple ingredients into a moist chicken with crispy skin. Just looking at the photo of the finished chicken, you can see that taught skin was delivered as promised.
So what were the three simple ingredients for their chicken (if you guessed chicken was one, you’re a third of the way there!):
If you’re thinking, “that’s not a lot of extra flavor,” you’re right. But this is a recipe strictly about method. And don’t you know that simple roast chicken is actually good? I wouldn’t still be on this project (this is chicken #11, for the record) if roasted chicken weren’t good. Keep in mind, this project means that not only am I having a roast chicken once a week, but I’m also coming up with a way to utilize the leftover chicken. Soups, salads, sandwiches, noodles, tacos…you name it, I’ve likely done it with leftover chicken. Seriously, I’m probably another month away from entertaining a chicken ice cream (okay, not really). Point being, don’t dismiss how good chicken really is in general.
The prep is simple, but there’s a bit of a trick:
If you remember the tea-brined chicken or the zuni roast chicken, then this step won’t be so tricky or surprising. Two days before hand, I started the air drying process. I rubbed the salt all over my blotted-dry bird (inside and out) and tucked him inside an open ziploc bag. To be honest, I think the bag direction was really to make people feel better about the supposed ickiness of having a raw chicken just sitting in the fridge, but I went with it. I will say that the recipe offers a time as low as 8 hours, so one could theoretically do this prep before going to work and finish this off when they got home.
After two days, I got to re-dry the chicken with more paper towels, but I was ready to start the two-stage cooking process. My oven was preheating to 500 degrees and the butter was melted:
I set the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and painted it with butter. Keep in mind, I still had a good amount of leftover butter. Once the bird was painted, I loosely tied the legs with string – this was not a formal strussing – and poured 1 cup of hot water into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Phase 1 lasted for 30 minutes at 500 degrees. 15 minutes in, I re-painted the bird with a little butter. During this phase, the leg skin was plenty brown and had already started going taught, which was a very good thing. Phase 2 drops the oven temperature to 350 degrees and increases the re-painting time to every 10 minutes. This went on for the next 40 minutes or so – basically until my thigh meat was 165 degrees. The skin went a bit browner, but the middle where the butter had pooled never quite browned all the way (it still tasted good).
The chicken rested on the counter for 20 minutes, and I promise this helped further dry the chicken (I did take it out of the pan, as the steam from the water in the pan would have made it soggy). The skin did the best job of staying adhered to the chicken after carving. As I’d mentioned before, the chicken was moist, but just chicken. In terms of having great skin, this was a winner. The method is sound (as it’s used in other preparations), it just needed more flavor. But in terms of using it for leftovers, it was a breeze – I didn’t have to worry about strong flavors interfering at all.