Thomas Keller is not exactly known for recipe shortcuts, so when the man tells me that it takes two ingredients and minimal involvement to roast a chicken, I take notice.
I first took notice a year ago, and it's been perfect roast chicken ever since. I salt the bird like a blizzard, put it in a blazing hot oven, and leave it alone. No basting, no fussing—no stuffing, even. Which leaves me free to do other things, like make a nice bed of bacon-y winter greens on which to serve the roast chicken, and a sweet-and-sour pomegranate jus to drizzle over it.
If you celebrate that sort of thing (which, I confess, I do), this might make an elegant and inexpensive Valentine's Day supper.
Since it's a special occasion, I'm breaking the bank just this once. In any case, the extra $3 I spent on a bottle of pomegranate molasses is a pretty sound investment. Imported from Egypt or Lebanon, the sticky pomegranate reduction has the multi-layered intensity of an aged balsamic vinegar and the price tag of a pint of beer. You'll find it in Middle Eastern grocery stores, and you'll use it in dressings and marinades for months to come.
The dish can be prepared without pomegranate molasses, but it does add a complex dimension to the roasting juices, and pairs exceptionally well with the earthy, metallic greens.
Note: Items bought in large quantities, like the bacon, have been pro-rated for cost. Ingredients a cook can reasonably be expected to have on hand are considered "Pantry Items" and are not factored into recipe cost.
One 3-pound chicken - $4.54
Pomegranate molasses - $2.95
Medium bunch of kale, or other leafy greens (about 3/4 pound) - $0.75
2 ounces bacon - $1 (total cost of item $4)
Small carrot and onion - $0.74
Coarse kosher salt, garlic, flour, butter, sugar, vegetable oil, black pepper
Perfect Roast Chicken with Pomegranate Jus
When I was an exchange student in France, I learned to love my roast chicken as the French do, dispensing with floury gravies and using just the thin, highly seasoned juices from the roasting pan. If you like your jus a little closer to a gravy in consistency, make a beurre manié (a paste of equal parts room-temperature, unsalted butter and all-purpose flour) and drop it into the simmering liquid a little at a time. It will thicken as it cooks.
- One 2-3 pound chicken
- Coarse kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Small carrot, coarsely chopped
- Small onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 pound leafy greens, tough stems and center ribs discarded, sliced in 1/2-inch ribbons
- 2 strips bacon, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Trim excess fat and discard. Remove wing tips and reserve with chicken neck.
Salt chicken liberally and evenly on every side. Place in roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes, until crisp and golden. To check doneness, pierce the thickest part of the chicken thigh with a skewer and make sure that the juices run clear.
Once the chicken is in the oven, heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion, carrot, and reserved chicken trimmings until very well browned. Add water and simmer gently until chicken is ready.
Remove chicken from oven and allow to rest. Meanwhile, strain the simmering liquid through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve. Return strained liquid to saucepan. Add pomegranate molasses, sugar, and juices from roasting pan, including any crusty brown bits. Reduce by half over high heat. Adjust seasoning, adding more pomegranate molasses or sugar if sweeter or sharper taste is desired.
Quarter chicken and serve 1-2 pieces per person on bed of sautéed greens, drizzled with pomegranate jus.
Sautéed Winter Greens with Bacon
I used kale, but you could substitute Swiss chard or collard greens.
In a large, lidded sauté pan, heat the bacon over medium heat until beginning to crisp.
Add the garlic and sauté until lightly golden, about 30 seconds.
Add greens and cook, stirring frequently, until bright green and softened. Add water and simmer, partially covered, until greens are tender and liquid has evaporated, 6 to 10 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in butter to coat.