Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thomas Keller & The Perfect Roast Chicken

Thomas Keller's Favorite Simple Roast Chicken
and my awesome new Fig tablecloth

A couple of days ago I went on a food-literature binge.  I was about 4 issues behind on my Food & Wine and Bon Appetit subscriptions because of the holidays, and my cookbook collection (a small but varied selection of choice pieces of food lit) had been sorely neglected for months.  Besides the magazines, I pulled out two books on French cooking that I hadn't used in ages: Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten and Bouchon by Thomas Keller.  As far as French cookery goes, the two are almost diametrically opposed to each other with Ina Garten, of Food Network fame, favoring French recipes simplified for the home cook often with a New England twist and Thomas Keller espousing the authentic and sophisticated French and French-bistro foods he is so well known for at Bouchon, Ad Hoc, Per Se, and The French Laundry.

I was flipping through the books because I'd been craving - positively craving - a good roast chicken for weeks.  I kept seeing ridiculously appetizing pictures of them all over Pinterest and decided to narrow down my top selections and then make the one I deemed most roast-worthy.  After I'd chosen my favorite among the pictures and recipes online - something labelled "Thomas Keller's Favorite Simple Roast Chicken" - I went to look through my French cookbooks to see if I could find anything better.

Open the book and there it was.  The first recipe in Thomas Keller's Bouchon: his favorite simple roast chicken. Seriously?!

Up until that point I had no idea who Thomas Keller even was, much less that he'd written that giant French cookbook my mother had given me 5 years ago or that he was the same chef referenced in the online chicken recipe I'd found.  But there you have it.  It was a match made in heaven, destined for completion on a cold January Sunday in Portland, Maine.  And here I am, like many other bloggers and amateur foodies post-Sunday dinner sharing my pictures of what could possibly be the perfect roast chicken.

The things that elevate this simple roast chicken to the realms of perfection are: the simplicity of the seasoning (salt and pepper only), the scant use of fat (no butter or oil on the chicken itself, though I did throw some in the skillet for the sake of an awesome pan-sauce), and the lack of basting until post-roasting (you throw some thyme into the pan juices and baste a couple of times only AFTER taking the bird out of the oven).  It's so simple I am amazed it tastes as good as it does, and yet, as we always seem to conclude, the best things in life do tend to be the simplest ones.  

Some might complain that it's overly simple.  Some might say that chicken is not sophisticated enough for the carefully cultivated palates of real gourmets.  To them I say: try this chicken.  It is a shocking combination of juicy meat and utterly crispy skin, and the unadulterated chicken flavor really hits you.  In short, roast-chicken-wise, it's about as close to perfect as I've ever tasted.  Why not be bold in our statements?

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For the sake of voyeurism, here are my original top five roast chicken picks, mostly from my pins on Pinterest, in list form (click links to check out the mouthwatering pictures):

Top Five Roast-worthy Roast Chicken Recipes
good anytime but best on a cozy winter day

5. Lemon-Garlic Roast Chicken (no recipe) from
This looks to-die-for but, alas, it's just a picture.  I would have had to whip up this one from my own imagination and that's a no-go on a lazy Sunday.  What's with that Katie?!

4. Cardamom & Yoghurt Roast Chicken from
Matt doesn't like Cardamom, but I love it.  This gets points for including spatchcockage and skillet roasting.

3. Spanish Roast Chicken with Citrus & Chorizo from
If only we had good Chorizo in Maine!  Needless to say, this is right up my alley.

2. Lazy Sunday Roast Chicken from
I'm not huge on rosemary but I love it paired with chicken and citrus.  The skin doesn't look crispy enough for me but those potatoes might make up for that.

1. Thomas Keller's Favorite Simple Roast Chicken from
What would you eat at your last meal?  I have no clue off the top of my head but Thomas Keller unequivocally said this chicken. Well, that's a recommendation :)  Get the recipe and story behind it at the link above - a great little blog too.

Sunday Dinner: Thomas Keller's Simple Roast Chicken and Grilled Brussel Sprouts
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  1. yum! will have to try. this isn't as simple, but i got a great chicken with this recipe: