I just realized I’ve never blogged this recipe, and I need to, because I make it often enough that it should be recorded here.
I got this from Smitten Kitchen, which in turn got it from the Zuni Café. I imagine some modifications have happened at various junctures, but in any case, it’s an easy and low-fuss way to make a tasty, moist chicken (as long as you have some time to spare). I excel at things wherein the hardest part is the planning ahead, so this is the perfect recipe for me.
Zuni Café Roast Chicken
One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2-pounds (this is important; chickens this small can be hard to find at the grocery store, but the size ensures ideal brining and roasting)
Assorted herbs (I’m using sage, rosemary, and lemon basil)
Plenty of salt (1-2 tablespoons)
3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Season the chicken: [1 to 3 days before serving; give a 3 1/4 to 3 1/2-pound chicken at least 2 days]
Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.
Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove some chopped herbs into each of the 4 pockets. Stick any remaining herbs into the cavity.
Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
Prepare your oven and pan: [Day of, total time is 45 minutes to 1 hour]
Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle (I use a cast-iron pan). Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.
Roast the chicken: Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.
Rest the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Wait 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.
Serve with veggies, salad, couscous, rice, potatoes, whatever.