For this week's Cook the Book we are going to serve up a complete chicken dinner from Michael Ruhlman's newly released Ruhlman's Twenty. The first order of business is obviously the chicken, in this case a chicken called "Perfect Roasted Chicken," (a pretty high bar to set for any recipe title). Since Ruhlman's Twenty is, at its heart, a technique cookbook, let's talk about the three elements that go into roasting a perfect chicken, according to Ruhlman: seasoning, oven temperature, and juiciness.
First off is seasoning and in Ruhlman's recipe, he keeps it dead simple. Just salt. A generous application of salt means not only tasty bird but one with the crispiest skin due to the dehydrating qualities of salt.
Next up is cooking temperature, Ruhlman keeps the oven at a hotter than your normal roasting temp, 425°F to 450°F. This high heat roasting equals a shorter roasting time that contributes not only to that wonderfully crisp skin but also less of a chance for the less fatty parts of the chicken to dry out.
And finally, concerning the dryness factor, there's the issue of trussing. By trussing your chicken (or stuffing a lemon or onion inside), you are sealing up the cavity so that less air has a chance to get in there and cooking the chicken from the inside as well as the outside.
So, the question here is is this really the perfect roast chicken? I'm going with an overwhelming yes for a couple of reasons. It's the simplest roast chicken that's ever come out of my kitchen and as far as fantastic chicken flavor goes—juicy interior and cracklingly crisp skin—it's really spot on, and dare I say perfect. Not overly fancy, but with a chicken that tastes this good, extra add-ins like herbs and aromatics aren't really necessary.
In fact, the only thing that improves this roast chicken is Ruhlman's awesome Pan Sauce but you'll have to wait for tomorrow for that one.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Ruhlman's Twenty to give away this week.
- One 3- to 4-pound chicken
- 1 lemon and/or 1 medium onion, quartered
- Kosher salt
About 1 hour before cooking the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator, and rinse it. If you intend to make a pan sauce, cut off the wing tips and add them, along with the neck if you have it, to the pan in which you will roast the bird. Truss the chicken or stuff it with the lemon or onion, or both. Salt it and set it on a plate lined with paper towels/absorbent paper.
Preheat the oven to 450°F to 425°F if you’re concerned about smoke. Set the oven on convection if that’s an option. Put the chicken in an oven-proof frying pan and slide it into the oven.
After 1 hour, check the color of the juices. If they run red, return the chicken to the oven and check it again in 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving it.
Carve the chicken and serve.