To test the flavor and freshness of an organic chicken that was fedexed to me by the Poulet de Janzé people (nothing makes you feel like a *real* food blogger than having a free poultry overnighted to your home), I went looking for the simplest roast chicken recipes I could possibly find. My feeling was that even fresh herbs might mask a sub-par specimen. The recipe I ultimately chose came from superstar chef Thomas Keller (of all unlikely sources) and the recipe he gives for it on the Epicurious website.
Keller does nothing to his roast chicken…except sprinkle it liberally with salt. Then he sticks the bird in a super-hot oven and leaves it there for an hour. He doesn’t fuss with it or flip it, he doesn’t baste (Hallelujah!) or add vegetables. And you know what? That left alone, cooked alone chicken comes out nigh on perfect. It even has a papery-crackly-salty skin like the skin on the chickens my grandmother used to roast for ‘Sunday Dinner’ when I was a child.
There’s only one downside to Keller’s recipe (which has risen to the top of my list of roast chicken recipes): You need a really good chicken. Maybe not one that was fedexed to your doorstep, but still. A really good chicken.
Crispy-Skinned Roast Chicken
This fast, no-fuss roast chicken is ideal for when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. I’ve added my 2-cents’ worth to Thomas Keller’s original because 1) I’m in Brittany and fleur de sel flows freely in my kitchen and 2) I do like to stuff my roast chicken with any herbs and aromatics I have available.
1 3 to 4-pound (1.5 kg.) roaster chicken
1 Tbs. fleur de sel, sea salt, or kosher salt, plus more for the chicken cavity
ground black pepper
onion, leek greens, lemon halves, garlic, fresh herbs, optional
PREHEAT the oven to 450˚F (220˚C). Rub a thin coat of oil on the bottom and sides of your roasting pan. (This makes clean-up easier.)
RINSE the chicken and pat it dry. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper into the chicken cavity. Stuff the cavity with seasonings, if desired, then truss the chicken or simply tuck the wings close to the legs to keep the meat moist.
SPRINKLE the chicken all over with 1 Tbs. salt and season with pepper to taste.
PLACE the chicken in the roasting pan (after salting—this keeps the drippings from getting too salty), and roast 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 165˚F (75˚C) and the juices run clear when the leg joint is pierced. Let the chicken rest at least 15 minutes before serving.