Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday Supper 11.9.08 - Perfect Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken with Green Salad, Dressing and Cranberries

Sunday Supper 11.9.08

Knight Salumi's Hungarian Salami
Spring Hill Farms' Goat Sage Cheddar
Melted Humboldt Fog
Fig Jam and Bread and Cie Levain

Roast Chicken
Jora's Dressing with Apples and Cranberries
Sage Mountain Greens with Herbed Parmesan Vinaigrette
Cranberry Relish

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

It's always nice to be able to cross accomplishments off your list, and thanks to Judy Rodgers and her recipe for Zuni Chicken with Bread Salad, I can happily say that I've got roast chicken nailed. Her quick and easy method comes out perfect - crisp, juicy and delicious - every single time.
Sunday Supper 11.9.08
There are two secrets - salting the bird in advance (which does mean you have to plan ahead a little bit) and flipping it over at the appropriate point in the cooking to keep the breast meat moist. Judy Rodgers insists that smaller birds cook better, but I don't really think it makes much difference if you reduce the heat a bit. We enjoyed this one last night for Sunday Supper at Jora's house, accompanied by a green salad with a homemade vinaigrette dressing and cranberries - with homemade pumpkin pie for dessert.

Jora's salad dressing was amazingly delicious, and I can't wait to get the recipe. She's promised to share it and her pumpkin pie on her blog sometime today or tomorrow. When she does, I'll update this post with links.
Pumpkin Pie and Port
Jora's pumpkin pie was lovely - perfectly spiced and not too sweet. She asked me to leave the whipped cream unsweetened, and she was right - it really doesn't need a thing.
Pumpkin Pie
I also just have to include this gratuitous shot of Jora's adorable baby girl - "Baby J" - wielding a chicken leg. C-Man was also in attendance, sitting just to her left at the table with the Big People. They really are some cute kids. Without further ado, here is the chicken recipe.
Baby J at Sunday Supper
Perfect Roast Chicken
based on Judy Rodgers' method in the Zuni Cookbook

1 organic chicken, around 4-5 pounds or smaller if you can find it.
2 Tablespoons of kosher salt (it's important that it is kosher) in a small dish (since you'll be dipping your fingers back in it after touching the raw chicken.)
a few sprigs of thyme and/or sage leaves (optional)

paper towels
a plate
a half sheet pan

Rinse and dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Fold some towels and place on a plate, setting the dry chicken on the towels. Slip your fingers underneath the breast skin to loosen it, and and liberally rub salt under the skin directly on the meat. Liberally rub the inside of the chicken and outside of the skin with salt, patting the outside to encourage it to sink into the skin a bit. Slit the tops of the legs and slide your fingers under the skin to rub salt on the legs and thighs under the skin. If you're using them, slide three or four stalks of the herbs gently under the breast skin, and put a few inside.

Place the dry, salted chicken UNCOVERED on its plate (with paper towels) in the refrigerator, giving it a little bit of breathing room. This will keep the skin dry - which is what you want in order to get it crisp & golden. The chicken should dry brine in the refrigerator for at least five or six hours. Take it out of the refrigerator for the last hour two to allow it to come to room temperature (this helps prevent sticking.)

About an hour and a half to two hours before you want to serve it, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Just a few minutes before you put the chicken in, place a half sheet pan in the oven to heat.

When the oven and the pan are hot - take the chicken and pat it dry one last time - then set it directly on the hot pan - it will sizzle loudly.

Roast it for about 30 for a small bird, or 40 minutes for a larger one - until it's nice and brown. If it seems to be burning or smoking - reduce the heat. (If you're using smaller chickens, you can actually turn it up to 450 to speed the cooking a bit.)

Pull the pan out and gently loosen the bird from the pan and flip it over with tongs - setting it breast side down. Cook for another 20 minutes or so. Then pull it out and flip it back over. Set it back the oven and cook for about 10 more minutes, until the breast skin re-crisps and it's a nice lacquered golden brown all over. You'll hear it sizzling and spitting in the pan. If you have a probe thermometer and want to check it for doneness, it should be at or above 165.

Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes after it comes out of the oven before carving - it will become more tender and finish cooking a bit outside the oven.


  1. You are right: you've got that chicken nailed down perfectly, and those ARE cute kids. ;)

  2. Sounds delish. Do you think the salting would work equally well with a Turkey?

  3. I just wanted to say that I tried the technique with turkey for the first time this Thanksgiving. Marvelous! Tasty. Moist. Wonderfully crisp skin. I have been a wet briner for many years. Never again. Do a search for "dry brine turkey" and you'll find a bunch of links.