Well, Hello There: Roast Chicken

Welcome, friends!  I’m so very glad you’re here.

In fact, I roasted you a chicken to celebrate.  This, dear reader, is absolutely the best chicken I’ve ever had, which I thought would make a nice present.  I’ll tell you how to make it if you promise to give it a try.  It’s actually much simpler than you’d think.

The method comes from Thomas Keller, he of French Laundry and fourteen course tasting menu fame.  (I imagine that Keller keeps Michelin stars and foie gras stuffed in his pockets like other people keep bus transfers and change.)  Don’t be scared off by this, though, because the technique is basically foolproof.  It’s a popular recipe, too, if that means anything to you.  Do a Google search for “roast chicken” and voila, the first hit belongs to Keller, making this recipe the Homecoming Queen of poultry.

The major premise (which gloriously extends to Thanksgiving turkeys, as I happily found out last year) is this: high heat, small bird, bit of salt.  That’s pretty much it.  Can you believe it?

About an hour later, and you will be swooning over your dinner: perfectly juicy with crackly-crisp skin. C’est parfait! Maybe there’s some latent French grandmother hiding in your DNA?  How did nobody, including you, know you were such a fantastic cook? Where has this chicken been all your life?

The only obstacle, then, between you and this lovely scene of culinary triumph is trussing the bird.  It can seem like a tricky venture if you’ve never done it, but be brave.  You can certainly invest in trussing or mattress needles (Julia Child has lovely, illustrated instructions on how to truss poultry this way in Mastering the Art of French Cooking; read them out loud in your Julia Child voice while you do it), but I just hogtie the bird with a long length of kitchen twine and call it a day.  (For the record, nothing looks quite as obscene as a naked chicken bound up and ready to be roasted. Perhaps that’s just me?)  A little perspective from Keller (excerpted from the Bouchon cookbook):

Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it’s a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.

Oh, I know. Culinary Perfection Guy says it’s not difficult. But really, give it a whirl.

Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken
(excerpts from the Bouchon cookbook; serves about four)

  • One 2-3 lb farm raised chicken
  • Salt
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
  • Kitchen twine

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry the bird, inside and out.  Salt and pepper the cavity.

And again from the Maestro:

Now, salt the chicken—I like to rain 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.

I should also mention that you’ll need to open a window or turn on the hood midway through cooking.  At such a high heat, the chicken will smoke quite a bit.  (Starting with a clean oven will help.)  Nothing says “flustered hostess” more than screeching fire alarms mid-way through your dinner party.  I speak, unfortunately, from experience.

Place the chicken in a sauté 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.

Before you let it rest, tilt the chicken to release the juices from the cavity.  Take the internal temperature (you’ll want 165 degrees, say the fine folks at the USDA) at the inner part of the thigh; the juices should run clear when you pierce the meat.  (The only thing worse than an overcooked chicken is one that poisons your guests with salmonella, n’est pas?)  Bear in mind that the meat of small, young birds may have a rosy tinge even if fully cooked.  Just pay attention to the temperature.

And that is pretty much that! I like to serve the chicken most often with collards or sauteed kale or some other leafy green, something dark and vegetal and a little bitter.  A crisp white wine, some garlicky mashed potatoes and you’ve got yourself a pretty fantastic dinner.


Well, my dears, I suppose that concludes our very first little get-together.  You’re going to just love that chicken.  Let me know how it goes.


About scarpettakate

Scarpetta Dolcetto celebrates simple, seasonal, scratch home cookery.
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22 Responses to Well, Hello There: Roast Chicken

  1. iJean says:

    That is the best of the best when it come to poulet. Mrs. iJean is a big advocate of Le Méthode de Keller.

  2. Oh, my very first comment! Merci, Dad. (Say hello to Paris for me, oui? I see you’ve fallen into your Franglais already.)

  3. Ale says:

    Love the thyme touch! Looks delicious! Congrats on getting started with the blog! : )

  4. kknepper says:

    Hearts to your blog! This might be just the recipe for our Monday night dinner with Jim Willis & the Kinzels, I will let you know how the trussing goes…..

  5. MargieO says:

    Great photos! That’s my favorite roasted chicken recipe, too. I don’t do well though with anything that requires string, or anything else typically found in the garage.

  6. jules says:

    we had this last night! delicious!! beautifully written blog. lovely pictures. keep it coming!

  7. latenightbaker says:

    Love the blog! Can you give us a little more direction on the trussing. How do I start? Any good step by step guides (preferably with pics) on line I can start with?

  8. Thanks for the notes, dears!

    @ latenightbaker: I found a little video with clear instructions for you. The trussing doesn’t need to look perfect (you’ll cut off the twine before you serve it, anyhow). Just wrangle the legs (I like this chef’s “figure 8” description) and wings as close to the breast as you can. I also like to tie a piece lengthwise to close the cavity (just tuck the tail in under the string) since it won’t be stuffed. You’ll need a few feet of kitchen twine, which your grocery store should carry. Good luck!


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  11. Jason says:

    Help!! So my local butcher doesn’t have 2-3 pound chickens. Best we could find was a 4lb (without guts) chicken. So, other than extending my cooking time what problems does this pose? I worry that at such a high temp my thicker chicken will be over cooked on the outside before the inside reaches temp.

    • I’ve followed this as is with a nearly-4 pounder, too. Same great crispy skin but the breast may have been a bit drier than when I’ve used a smaller bird. It will still be tasty! Also, start with a room temp chicken. (And if you’re still worried, you can also “bard” the bird by cutting a piece of bacon and crisscrossing it over the breast to keep it from drying.) Good luck!

      • Jason says:

        Excellent. Well I have to say it came out great. Probably cooked for 90 minutes and was really good and very juicy. This blog rocks. Thanks again for the day of confidence boost!!

      • Oh, I’m so glad it worked out! Thanks for the note. There are few things finer than a good roast chicken…I may fix one tonight myself!

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