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We had some friends over for dinner on Christmas eve and while I was thrilled to be cooking up a storm in the kitchen, I was also aware that I wouldn’t be able to spend too much time there, thanks to the nugget. If I am up too long on my feet, the back starts to creak and the calves begin to protest.

Pfft! There goes all my idealistic notions of being mobile right to the day I deliver.

To keep things simple for myself, I decided to roast up a chicken since you can’t really go wrong with that. And since I have had my ad hoc at home cookbook for a while now and haven’t really been utilizing it, I decided that we would have a Thomas Keller meal for the evening.

But while surfing the net for the roast chicken recipe found in the book at work one day, I chanced upon another Thomas Keller recipe that was even more alluring: the chicken needed no marinating and would require only salt and pepper for its flavour.

Say what? Sold!

On the day itself, I let the chicken sit in the open for a good two hours before drying it thoroughly with paper towels. I then trussed the bird for the first time in my life. Yes, I is noob cook who thought trussing was difficult but it really wasn’t at all!

When the oven dinged and I took the bird out, I was impressed. For one, the colour of the chicken was simply perfect. Secondly, the meat fell off the bone oh so easily. And when we dug in, everyone was amazed that I had used nothing but salt and pepper because it tasted that awesome. The breast meat was juicy and tender while the skin was nicely crisp. I thought we would have enough leftovers for chicken sandwiches for the next week but it was devoured completely.

Absolutely a winner!

Thomas Keller’s Favourite Simple Roast Chicken

What you’ll need

  • 1.3kg farm-raised chicken
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp minced thyme (optional – I didn’t use it)
  • Unsalted butter to taste
  • Dijon mustard to taste (I didn’t use this either)

How to make:

Preheat the oven to 230 degree Celsius. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird.

Now, salt the chicken – try raining the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it’s cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a saute pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone – I don’t baste it, I don’t add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don’t want. Roast it until it’s done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Remove the twine. Separate the middle wing joint and eat that immediately. Remove the legs and thighs. I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I’m cooking with. But I take the chicken butt for myself. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip – until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat myself. These are the cook’s rewards. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is not meant to be super elegant.

Slather the meat with fresh butter. Serve with mustard on the side and, if you wish, a simple green salad. You’ll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it’s so good.

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