Thomas Keller, my current chefcrush, tends to wax poetic on the subject of roasted chicken. I’ve never had much success with roasted chicken, primarily because when I think it’s done perfectly, it’s either (a) overdone, or (b) underdone. Keller has several notions as to why that may be so. I decided to take his words to heart and try again.
The first thing he says you have to do is to “temper the protein”. In non-chef-speak, that just means to get the chicken to room temperature before you roast it. Got that, Thomas, easy to do.
The second thing is to truss the chicken. Of course, there is a right way, the Keller-way, to truss said chicken. I read his description and watched his video, which you can view here. He also mentions that if you want the chicken to carve up nicely, you should take out the wishbone before you roast it. I’ve never been one for raw chicken surgery, but it did look easy, so I decided to try it. Here’s the surprising thing–it was easy. Here is the proof:
Then, with Keller’s video playing on my iPad right there at my elbow, I trussed the chicken. It looks awesome. I am proud.
An interesting aside: I was reading in one of Ruhlman’s books just this morning an anecdote about Tim Ryan, the President of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. Apparently Ryan is a real stickler for the Right Way to do everything, and that includes trussing a chicken. Ruhlman relates that when Ryan and his wife were first married, the wife (also a chef) presented as their first meal an untrussed roasted chicken. Despite the fact that they were newlyweds, Ryan refused to eat it because it was not trussed. Man. I would have offered to truss his giblets for him, but that’s just me.
Anyhow, back to the roasted chicken. It is currently resting on its bed of root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and onions) in a 450 degree oven, after having been brought to room temperature, liberally salted (in the Keller-way, which involves holding the salt high up over the chicken and snowing it over, rather than seasoning from directly over the bird. The idea here is that the seasoning spreads out more evenly [and gets all over the floor; presumably Keller has flunkies to sweep it up for him, but I had to do it myself.]) My only problem now is that I still don’t know how long to roast it. Keller’s chicken was slightly smaller than mine, so I will have to wing it (hah). It’s smelling mighty good though. More later.
It’s later. I ate the chicken. It was, quite possibly, the best piece of chicken I have ever had. The breast was so juicy it was dripping; it was perfectly salted and flavorful and I didn’t have to add a thing to it.
The bad news is that I’m still not sure how to judge the doneness of roast chicken. My thermometer inserted in various places read 160, which after resting 10 minutes was up to 165, which conforms to USDA standards. The half pictured above was perfect–done but not overdone. The other half of the breast was also perfect, but I thought that the second thigh and leg could have cooked a tiny bit longer, so I cut the white meat off and stuck the rest of the chicken back in the oven for another 10 minutes, which is where it is right now. So it could be a problem with my oven heating unevenly. Next time I will turn it around halfway through the cooking time.
In any case, I’m not getting over my obsession with Thomas Keller anytime soon. The man knows what he’s talking about.
Oh, and the wishbone issue? Meh. It didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference to the way it carved, as far as I could tell. Disappointing, because I owned that wishbone removal thing, baby.