After trying several versions of roast chicken, I had just about decided I'd never find what I was looking for. I vowed to invest in a rotisserie cooker, assuming they make one that fits in my kitchen. Because nothing I'd tried yielded delicious results. My last hope, however, surfaced before I took any drastic appliance measures. (You're welcome, Justin.)
I found this recipe several weeks ago on a great food blog - The Kitchen Sink. The think I liked most about it was the straightforward approach. You get a small chicken. You salt it. You roast it, and badabing. It's the in-depth instructions that really sold me. I need depth. I need supervision. I need someone standing over my shoulder saying, "that looks OK, but this would make it AWESOME."
(I need a personal chef. The end.)
(But where is the fun in that?)
So, without further ado, here's The Best Roast Chicken ever, from The Kitchen Sink, who got it from Zuni Cafe, therefore, she and her husband call it a "Zuni Bird."
(That turned out to be further ado, no?)
Zuni Roast Chicken - The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
One 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 lb. chicken
4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or sage, about 1/2-inch long
About 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
Seasoning the chicken (1 to 3 days before serving; for 3 1/4 lb. to 3 1/2 pound chickens, at least 2 days): Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough—a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown. Approaching from the edge of the cavity, (ohhhh, the cavity again...I skipped this part despite my love of rosemary.) slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making a little pocket. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of the thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and the pepper (we use 3/4 teaspoon sea salt per pound of chicken). Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
Roasting the chicken: Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. (Depending on the size, efficiency, and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 degrees or as low as 450 degrees during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If that proves to be the case, begin at that temperature the next time you roast a chicken. If you have a convection function on your oven, use it for the first 30 minutes; it will enhance browning, and may reduce overall cooking time by 5 to 10 minutes.) Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle, a good and convenient option. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle. Place in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start sizzling and browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. On the other hand, blistering is great, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking aggressively, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over (drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking). Roast the bird for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.
Finishing and serving the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. Set the chicken in a warm spot (which may be your stovetop). The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools. Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two. Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste—the juices will be extremely flavorful. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve on the platter with the pan juices.
No joke, this was a deliciously roasted chicken. I over salted mine a little bit, because I had close to a 5 lb. chicken, and I'd had my fill of flavorless chicken before. Now, I've had my fill of salty chicken. But even despite that, it was amazing. Succulent even to the very deepest pieces. It was almost like it had been deep fried - because of the high heat, any fat that drains into the pan automatically fries the chicken. Wonderful. Just be sure to wear your cutest wife-beater and Jessica Simpson short-shorts because your kitchen is gonna get hot.
Here's how mine turned out.
Keep in mind, that since I'm neither a photographer nor a food blogger (Flogger? Fooger? Focker?) this picture is worth only about 10 words. And those words are: Please make this chicken NOW for the love of pity.