Thursday, October 7, 2010

A whole roasted chicken is a simple dish but often executed poorly.

The skin is either too soft and supple or tough as leather. Poorly seasoned. Overcooked. Dry. The dish also requires time.

I’ll admit I’ve grabbed a rotisserie chicken on several occasions from the grocery store after I rushed home from a 10 or 12 hour day at work. It was an easy solution for dinner.

Then two nights ago, I made Chef Thomas Keller’s version of roasted chicken. There is no comparison.

For those who don’t know, Keller is an amazing chef, cookbook author and restaurant owner in California, Las Vegas and New York. I’ve seen Keller on past episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s  show “No Reservations.” I’ve eaten Bouchon chocolate cakes and TKO cookies from Bouchon Bakery in NYC.

Last month, I finally had the opportunity to delightfully taste Keller’s roasted chicken at Bouchon Bistro in Las Vegas. The menu lists it as “Poulet Rôti - roasted chicken with fennel bulb, mission figs, sunchokes & chicken jus.” The chicken’s crispy skin, moist and tender meat and rich jus was simply perfect. Among my six dining companions, the chicken stood out as a winner as well as the restaurant’s braised beef short ribs with roasted bone marrow.

Could I replicate Keller’s chicken?

The directions are simple. Pat down the bird. Truss. Season with a heavy dose of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn oven to 450 F. Roast chicken for 45 to 50 minutes. Let rest. Carve. Eat. Enjoy.

While the chicken cooked, I also made celery root mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. It seemed like an easy idea since I had bought the celery root and potatoes at the “pazar” the day before. Then, I finished the dish by making a chicken jus.

A few lessons I learned: I’m terrible at carving a chicken. I would have used a little less salt on the chicken. I need to buy a potato ricer to make smoother mashed potatoes.

The end result was a crispy, but tender roasted chicken with flavorful mashed potatoes. To save some time, serve the meal with a simple side salad like I did.

For a more detailed look at Keller’s recipe, click here.

Roasted Chicken 
2-3       lb.        whole chicken
Kosher salt (approx. 1 Tablespoon)
Freshly ground black pepper
Thyme (I used dried)

1. Preheat oven to 450F/230 C.
2. Rinse the chicken and then pat dry. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper.
3. Truss the chicken.
4. Season the outside of the chicken with a good dose of the salt and pepper.
5. Place the chicken in a metal roasting pan and cook. Don’t baste it or anything. (My 2.5 pound chicken took exactly 50 minutes.)
6. After the chicken has been roasting about 25 minutes, add the foil packet of garlic. My garlic was done at the same time I pulled out my chicken after 50 minutes.
7. Roast the chicken for 45 to 50 minutes or until the juices run clear. Remove pan from oven.
8. Season chicken with the thyme. Baste the chicken with the juices and let rest for 15 minutes before carving it. Reserve the juices to make the chicken jus below.

Chicken Jus
2+        c.         chicken stock
Reserved pan juices

1. Place the roasting pan directly on a burner set at medium-high. Add the chicken stock. Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all the browned bits that stick to the pan.
2. Bring the liquid to a boil and continue to cook until slightly thickened and reduced.
3. Skim most of the fat from the surface of the liquid with a spoon, or alternately, use a degreasing cup if you have one.
4. Strain the jus through a fine sieve into a serving bowl. Taste the jus and season with salt and pepper, if needed. (My jus turned out a little salty because I think I overseasoned my chicken to begin with.)

Celery Root Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic
1          lb.        yellow flesh potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1          lb.        celery root, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3       T.         unsalted butter
Several cloves of roasted garlic
As needed       whole milk or heavy cream
TT                    salt and pepper

1. Place the potatoes and celery root in a large pot. Cover the vegetables with just enough water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Place a lid on top, bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. The potatoes and celery root should be tender and take the same amount of time to cook if they are cut to the same size. Test doneness with a fork or knife.
3. Drain the potatoes and celery root. Using a large bowl or the same pot, add the potatoes, celery root, roasted garlic, butter and milk. I used an immersion blender to mash and blend the mixture. Mash until you reach the desired consistency. Add more butter or milk as needed.
4. Season with salt and pepper.

For the roasted garlic:
1. Trim the tops off two or three heads of garlic so you can see the cloves exposed inside.
2. Place the garlic in a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle olive oil on top. Seal the foil packets by pinching them tightly.
3. Roast the garlic with the chicken as mentioned previously. When done, let cool slightly and then squeeze out the caramelized garlic cloves.
4. Add some of the garlic to the potato mixture. Save the rest for another dish such as rice pilaf.

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Mura said...

Lovely combination of flavors here.It was delicious, I love an explosion of flavors.