Thomas Keller’s easy roast chicken

Keller’s easy roasting style

Listen up folks, it can’t get any easier than this. After watching uber chef Thomas Keller whip out this roast chicken on a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation, I thought: “There is no reason, America can’t cook!
It’s no secret that the United States population has the highest consumption of processed food. When I first came to the U.S., the microwave was my friend. I marveled at all these frozen dinners that cost less than $3.00 and cooked (or heated up) in 5 minutes or less (granted they tasted like crap most of the time). I didn’t cook, let alone boil water because I grew up in the Philippines pampered with mostly home-cooked meals made by other people. You see, I thought I’d embrace the American lifestyle of supermarkets and fastfood. I had developed bad eating habits. For example, breakfast – Doritos and a Big Gulp, lunch – microwaveable frozen dinner, dinner- Chinese takeout. My brother still loves to tell the story about when he first visited me in 1998, he opened my refrigerator and all he found was a bottle of coke.
But it didn’t take me long to miss the taste of real food and I eventually taught myself to cook.
As I delve into the American psyche of processed food, cake-box mixes and frozen dinners, I do understand their convenience. Unlike other countries where it’s easy to hire servants in an average-income household, this is almost unheard of over here. Cooking involves planning, prep work, the actual cooking and then clean up. Throw in 2.5 kids, it’s no wonder why most folks would rather order take-out.

But then is all this dependence on processed food the reason for this nation’s obesity problem? We end up spending more time losing weight or more money correcting the consequences that this brings.

Anthony Bourdain was right in that if you want to cook, you need to learn some basic knife skills and it’s best to start by learning to chop onions. Get yourself a 10lb. bag from Costco and start prepping.

Good thing is, you don’t need much knife skills to make this roast chicken.

So, not much prep work.

You need to plan to buy the chicken of course. Ideally, it should be 3.5 lbs (smaller chickens are better for high temperature roasting). Look at this gorgeous bird from Polyface farms.

Lovely bird

Wash the chicken, inside and out and pat dry with some paper towels. (I usually do this ahead of time and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator). For the chicken to roast properly let it come to room temperature, a 1 to 1.5 hours out of the refrigerator should be enough.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Salt the inside of the chicken about 1 teaspoon.

Sprinkle it in

Pepper to taste.

Yes, I stuck that peppermill in there ‘ala Keller, just remember to sanitize it later

Keller said it was important to truss your chicken because this creates uniform density which makes for even cooking. You may also remove the wishbone, this makes carving the breast meat out easier. The pictures for this step got corrupted. In fact, I had to redo the entire trussing sequence because of the damaged CF card. Poor chicken had to endure all the manhandling all over again. Unfortunately, there is only one wishbone.

Order starts Left to Right, Top to Bottom

Click on the picture to enlarge in the lightbox. 1. Tuck the chicken wing as shone to provide some support when it lays on the pan. 2. With a 4ft. butcher’s twine, start under the butt. 3. Go over the legs 4. and then under the legs. 5. You should see a figure of “8” 6. Pull twines to draw legs together. 7. Turn chicken over and thread under the neck 8. (not sure if the next steps are the same as Keller’s, but it’s what I did.) Come up under the wings 9. Tie a simple knot.

Place chicken on the pan. Salt from high up so it disperses evenly. Sprinkle some thyme or any herb of choice. Thyme is easy because all you have to do is run your fingers through the stem if you don’t feel like chopping up any herbs.

It appears I forgot to pepper outside! The salt should appear more than it should on this picture, some of it dissolved by the time this picture was taken.

Pop into the oven. Come back after 50 minutes to an hour (depending on chicken size).
(I’m not sure how you check your oven temperature, but after 5 minutes of putting the bird in, I make sure that my oven is still at 450F by turning the knob off and resetting it to 450F. Usually, mine drops like 40F and that might affect total cook time and browning).

So how did it taste?

I’ll admit that its taste is not as life-altering as the Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken which involves salting the day before and turning the chicken over twice during cooking. But for the effort involved in this and the overall great flavor, I’ve already put this on a Tuesday night weekly rotation.


Cooking Notes:

Thomas Keller doesn’t believe in basting because it produces steam and steam is not what you want with this quick roasting method. I used roughly 1 tablespoon of salt on the outside and 1 teaspoon inside. These are just guidelines, as different salts weigh and measure differently. You’d like to have a good coating of salt; not all the salt disappears after cooking. This produces a pleasing crunch when you bite into the chicken which is why you want to use good salt. I use Maldon, its flaky texture lends itself perfectly for this.
Some warning. If you use a saute pan, remember that the handle is hot. It’s always good practice to handle pots and pans with a towel or a glove whether they are hot or not. Believe me, you’ll thank me later for this.

So, what do you all think? Easiest roast chicken ever right? There is simply no excuse not to try it!

P.S. Polyface chickens come already trussed. I just untrussed it so I can show the trussing sequence with a butcher’s twine.