Roasting a chicken is one of the most indispensable skills that a cook can hone, and no one has been championing the simple joys of a roast chicken more than Thomas Keller. So it's not surprising Keller chose to contribute a recipe for One-Pot Roast Chicken to In The Green Kitchen by Alice Waters, a collection of essential skills for home cooks.
While this recipe is pretty basic, Keller includes a few tips for optimal chicken-roasting. He removes the wishbone from the top of the chicken breast, which makes a world of difference when it comes to carving. He also trusses the chicken, binding the legs and tucking the wing tips under; this plumps up the breast and makes for a more evenly roasted chicken.
Once the chicken is tied and ready to go, it's placed on a bed of vegetables and herbs and left to roast undisturbed until it is cooked through. For those of you who are never quite sure when your chicken is truly finished, Keller offers up a great tip to check for doneness; Insert a knife into the leg joint and if the juices run clear, your chicken is ready, if they are pink, a few more minutes of roasting is in order.
Roasting chicken on a bed of vegetables makes for a full meal in one pot or pan. The vegetables soak up all the butter and chicken juices and caramelize beautifully. If you want to get fancy, you can dress a simple salad and throw in a loaf of crusty bread for good measure, but really this chicken is pretty much perfect on its own.
- 1 three-pound chicken
- Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
- 3 potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
- 2 onions, peeled and quartered
- 2 celery stalks, thickly sliced
- 4 large shallots, peeled
- Fennel, squash, turnips, parsnips, or other vegetables (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 or 3 thyme sprigs
- 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
First prepare the chicken. To remove the wishbone at the top of the breast, use a small knife to scrape along the bone to expose it, then insert the knife and run it along the bone, separating it from the flesh. Use your fingers to loosen it further, grasp the tip of the wishbone, and pull it out. Tuck the wing tips back and under the neck.
Tying the chicken plumps the breast up and brings the legs into position for even roasting. Cut a length of cotton string. With the chicken on its back, slip the string under the tail and bring the ends up over the legs to form a figure eight. Loop over the end of each leg and draw the strings tight to bring the legs together. Draw the string back under the legs and wings on either side of the neck. Pull tight, wrap one end around the neck, and tie off the two ends. Salt the chicken evenly all around. Coarse salt has a good texture of large grains that makes it easy to calibrate how much salt you are putting on the chicken; sprinkle it from up high, so that it falls like snow. Season liberally with fresh-ground pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375°F, put all the vegetables and herbs together in the bottom of a large, heavy ovenproof pot, and season with salt and pepper. Set the chicken on top, dot with the butter, and roast uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes (or longer), depending on the size of the chicken. It is done when the leg joint is pierced with a knife and the juices run clear, not pink.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before carving, and serve family-style with all of the caramelized vegetables and juices from the pot on a platter and the chicken pieces on top.