Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ruhlman's "Perfect" Roast Chicken

Out of the Oven
This recipe for roast chicken is from Ruhlman's Twenty, but you can find both the recipe for the chicken itself and the pan sauce at Serious Eats.

Roast chicken is probably one of the easiest and tastiest meals to make in the world and here Ruhlman has really distilled the process down to its essence. It basically works out to 1) stuff, truss, and salt 2) roast at 450 or 425 for an hour, and 3) make a pan sauce while it rests. Now, it only takes an hour in the oven for a 3-4 pound bird, but the salting step adds another hour of the chicken hanging out at room temperature... and then there is another 20 minutes to make the sauce (which I definitely recommend since you have to rest the meat for that long anyway). While it does require a little planning, this is certainly doable on a week night... especially since the vast majority of the time here is hands-off.

Rustic Pan Sauce

I went with both lemon and onion in the cavity... though the it didn't really fit more than a half of each so it probably makes sense to pick one or the other. At the end of the cooking time the skin was well crisped and I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even though he doesn't tell you to cook to a specific temperature (just to cook until the "juices run clear"), the breast meat was perfectly in the 155-160 degree range at the end of the prescribed hour while the thigh meat was around 170.

While the chicken rested I made the "rustic" pan sauce, and it was both tasty and super easy. I used a vegetable peeler to "thinly slice" the carrots... took like two minutes... and the onions can be quickly sliced as well, so really all there is to it is the repeated deglazing steps. It comes together quickly with little fuss, so if you've never tried a pan sauce before, this is a good one to get your feet wet with. You also have the option of a more refined sauce, but I didn't have the herbs and knew I wouldn't really use them up before the holidays... so I opted for the simpler path.

Dinner is Served

While I think I prefer roasting some root vegetables along with the chicken as a better use of that rendered fat than a pan sauce, I can't deny that this is a really easy chicken to make and that it came out... dare I say... perfect. It definitely makes me question any kind of Cook's Illustrated style rube goldberg approach to roasting the perfect chicken... some things are just made to be simple and can't really be improved.