• Chef Organic

How to Win At Roast Chicken


Once upon a time, I interviewed with the wife of a comedian for a part time private chef job a few days a week in the Hamptons, many years before I become a private chef in Lake Tahoe.

When I arrived at their home to do a trial dinner, there's the comedian sitting on a bench in a baseball hat, just chilling. He waved at me so I waved back, then from his bench he waved me into the house. No words were spoken.

I did the easiest and best thing I could do that night; a simple roast chicken.

The comedian didn't eat at home as he was on his way out with friends, and I never did meet him. It was the wife, a friend and her children, (who ate homemade chicken strips and veggies). They were all really nice children and the adults were well-behaved as well.

After dinner we sat down and discussed what days I could work and because I'd already committed to working four days a week for another Hamptonite, I couldn't do the four days that the comedian's wife was looking for. And it was all or nothing, apparently.

She said, "So I guess I missed the Marni boat." The interview ended pleasantly but quickly after that but I never forgot how funny it was of all the people I could have cooked for that summer, that is was these two who were competing for my services.

I acquired the Best Roast Chicken recipe in the early 90s, when I worked for a hot second for an heiress in Southampton, NY.

She'd asked me to make a roast chicken and said that she wanted it with herbs, so I made what was essentially an herb-roast chicken, covered in finely chopped rosemary, thyme and parsley, slathered in butter and salt and roasted at high heat for an hour. It was pretty good.

However, it was not what she wanted.

The heiress called for her Columbian nanny and asked her to "show this chef how to make roast chicken the way you make it!"

So she did, and we did, and it was better than good.

I've since modified it to include the pan roast onion and apple to puree after roasting with the jus from the chicken for a quick sauce.

Buying chicken whole is, in my opinion, the best way to stretch your dollar and to make more than one meal from the bird.

The roast carcass is excellent for stock and whatever is left over after dinner is tomorrow's chicken salad, curried chicken salad, chicken burritos, chicken tacos, chicken and pasta with sun-dried tomato cream sauce, chicken soup...you get the idea.

Here's the recipe:

BEST ROAST CHICKEN

1 free range roasting chicken, such as Rocky's or Mary's, about 4.5 to 5.5 pounds

1 medium yellow or white onion

1 medium red apple

3 juice oranges, one for stuffing and the other two for juicing

5 sprigs rosemary

5 sprigs thyme

1/2 cup homemade chicken stock, or plain filtered water

1 T. olive oil or soft butter

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Serves 2-4

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees*. Make sure you have a meat thermometer on hand.

Take the chicken out of the fridge, unwrap and remove the innards. (I usually place the chicken on a washable plastic cutting board liner while I'm prepping it- never wood.)

If there is a neck, set it aside to roast with the chicken. I'l save the liver in the freezer until I have enough to make a chicken liver pate. (I buy a lot of whole chicken so I can accumulate enough in a month.)

Slice the apple and one orange into quarters, then peel the onion and quarter it as well.

Put two pieces of apple, orange and onion into the cavity along with a spring of thyme and rosemary.

Sometimes I'll truss the legs together for aesthetics but then the chicken will need a few more minutes to cook so I'll usually seal the cavity with the skin and fat and the high heat cooking for the first 30 minutes will help to seal the cavity.

Rub the chicken with olive oil or butter, salt generously and add a bit of fresh ground pepper.

Place your chicken directly into lightly oiled 10-inch cast iron pan or a large stainless pan(never coated or teflon)= *and not glass as the cold pan could crack when it goes into a hot oven*

I prefer a half hotel pan with a rack inside if I don't use cast iron.

Tuck a spring of rosemary and thyme under each leg and each wing then place the neck, then the remaining pieces of apple and onion into the pan with the bird. Save the other half of orange for the basting liquid.

*Make sure the oven is fully preheated to temperature before you put it in the oven!

Roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and roast for an hour.

While the chicken is roasting, juice the 2.5 remaining oranges and combine with the stock or water in a small pan and heat gently. This will be your basting liquid.

After the chicken has roasted for an hour at 350, it should have an internal temperature of about 160 degrees. This is when you start basting.

Pour the hot stock/juice mixture over the chicken and baste it a few times, making sure you coat the entire top of the bird. This is best done with a turkey baster but a large spoon or small ladle will work too.

You're going to do this every 5 minutes for 15-20 minutes and by that time, the chicken should be at 165 degrees, measuring by inserting the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.

When the chicken is at 165 degrees, remove it from the oven and if you've cooked it in cast iron*, place it on a wooden carving platter to catch the juices while it rests, covered in foil for at least 15 minutes but up to 45. Room temperature roast chicken is delicious :)

*Cast iron holds heat really well so if you leave the chicken in the pan it will be overcooked instead of rested.

If you've used a stainless pan, you can leave it in the pan on the rack to rest

While it's resting, pour the basting liquid and juices into a saucepan along with the pieces of onion and apple and keep warm, or you can puree(carefully) in a blender to make a quick sauce. The apple and onion will thicken the sauce and turn it into a gravy, with no need to use flour or thickeners.

Slice the chicken as needed- it will keep longer if it stays on the bone so if you're not serving more than 2 of you, one side of the breast and some dark meat will suffice.

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