A basic skill that will pick out a good cook

A basic skill that will pick out a good cook

Last weekend I finally got around to thawing and roasting a big, fat chicken I’d had in the freezer for a few weeks. I wanted to get the chicken roasted to have some of it on hand for chicken-salad sandwiches for the week ahead.

After thawing in the fridge for a couple of days, I trussed it tightly and added nothing more than salt and pepper. A plain roast chicken is one of those very basic skills that will pick out a good cook, or so the French say.

If you can do that successfully, you can probably do all right with most any recipe. It’s deceptively simple but hard to get right, as the bird can easily dry out if overdone or be tasteless if you don’t get the seasoning and timing just right. Mine was a great success, but I held my breath until the first bite.

You might be tempted, in doing such a chicken, to put together some fancy stuffings or surround the thing with vegetables while it cooks, and that’s fine, but you are then venturing into a whole other category in which you are producing quite a bit of flavored liquid along with the chicken.

You can be simpler and just stuff it with a lemon and maybe some rosemary or tarragon. Add water, stock or wine or a mix of the three, carrots, onions and garlic, to the outside and you’ll be assured of something good.

But that’s not the classic way. This is a simple dish, and you want to serve it with simple accompaniments: plain, boiled, new potatoes; some steamed broccoli or asparagus; and a slight bit of gravy made up quickly from the sparse pan juices.

I recently read a story about Costco’s famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken. They’ve held to that price in spite of hikes in supply and are putting together their own supply chain with dedicated farms in Nebraska to bring the whole thing in house to protect that dirt-cheap price.

I have a really cheap source for chicken, but I can’t touch that price. No wonder they’re popular, as are the rotisserie chickens at most grocery stores.

But I urge you to try this yourself. The results are nutty, juicy and delicious in a way untouchable by other methods. You can use a small bird, but I get the best flavor by picking up a fat roasting bird at about 4.5 pounds or so. One designated a “roaster” will be a little older and therefore more flavorful than a young fryer.

I used a large, enameled cast iron pot to do mine, which I found to be a better choice than the cast iron frying pan I normally use. You can employ any substantial, heavy pan that can go safely into the oven.


1 roaster, about 4-4.5 pounds

Salt and pepper to taste

About 1/4 cup white wine

2 tablespoons butter

Optionally, fresh thyme or tarragon

Thaw the bird completely if necessary. Preheat oven to 425 F. Remove any innards present from the cavity and salt and pepper the chicken liberally all over. Cut out the wishbone to make carving easier. Making a figure eight with butcher’s twine, bring the legs together within it, wrap the string around the wings and to the neck, and tie tightly to make a compact package.

Roast on one side, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Carefully turn the bird and roast on the other side another 20 minutes. Finally, turn it onto its back and roast another 20-30 minutes until the juices are clear. Remove from the pan and rest on the breast to preserve juice. Meanwhile, add wine, butter and optional herbs to the juices in the pan, heating on a burner. Carve up the bird and serve with the sauce.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load