You can bake the chicken according to the instructions laid out below, or you can follow J. Kenji López-Alt's preferred method of butterflying the bird first then baking it. Either way, I recommend adding some water to the pan to keep the bottom of the pan from scorching. Plus, you get delicious pan juice to drizzle over the finished chicken when you serve it.
This baked chicken is best served with steamed jasmine (or Thai sticky) rice and some Thai sweet chili sauce.
Note: It is best to prepare the marinade paste by pounding the dry ingredients in a granite mortar. But if you don't have one, use a mini-chopper or a small food processor in which case you should use ground white pepper instead of whole white peppercorns as it's difficult to grind up whole peppercorns in a chopper or food processor.
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup finely-chopped cilantro stems or 3 cilantro roots, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons whole white peppercorns or freshly-ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- One whole chicken (about four pounds)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups water
In a mortar, pound together the garlic, cilantro, and peppercorns until you get a semi-smooth paste; transfer the paste to a large bowl. Alternatively, process in a food process, scraping down sides as necessary, until a paste is formed and transfer the paste to a large bowl. Add the fish sauce and honey to the marinade paste and stir together until well mixed.
Place the chicken into the marinade bowl. With your hands, rub the marinade on the chicken thoroughly, both inside and on the skin. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 375°F.
Place chicken breast side up in a large baking dish and brush the outside thoroughly with the vegetable oil. Add the water to the pan.
Bake the chicken for 60 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers at least 150°F and thigh registers 170°F.
Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes; carve and serve with pan juice.