Chefs' Picks: Roast Chicken

Four chefs share their favorite ways to roast a chicken.

A great roast chicken — the kind with gorgeous golden skin and meat that’s juicy and flavorful — is one of those things that seems like it should be simple, but actually requires a bit of technique. Whether brining, marinating, seasoning or all of the above, once you have a method that works, you can wow friends and family with relative ease. Here, four chefs share their favorite ways to roast a chicken.

Jonathan Waxman, Jams and Barbuto in NYC; Adele’s in Nashville

If one chef is synonymous with great roast chicken, it’s Jonathan Waxman. Back in the ’80s, when he opened his pioneering farm-to-table restaurant, Jams, his roast chicken became an instant icon. It’s now served in several iterations, at Barbuto in New York City, at Adele’s, his Nashville restaurant, and at Jams, his new revival in Midtown's 1 Hotel Central Park, where his Bell & Evans birds are cooked in a charcoal-fueled Josper oven from Spain. Waxman says he spatchcocks the chicken (taking out the backbone) so the chicken cooks more evenly, then simply seasons the bird with salt and pepper; he religiously bastes it every few minutes with its own juices. “There’s no brining, none of that nonsense,” says Waxman. “What makes it good is the love.” Check out his recipe at the end of this post.

Richard Blais, Juniper and Ivy, San Diego

Chef Richard Blais likes to roast his chicken flavored with a compound butter he makes with chicken drippings he's frozen from leftover roast chickens. He flavors the butter with the chicken drippings, then folds in some herbs, garlic and whatever else that’s in the fridge, and lifts the skin to massage the bird with the butter under the skin. He roasts the chicken breast-down in an oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. The bird then gets flipped and finished at 450 degrees F to brown the skin, while he bastes with the now-melted chicken butter.

Jason Dady, Two Bros BBQ Market, San Antonio

Chef Jason Dady, a Texas native, now owns five restaurants throughout San Antonio, ranging from classic Texas barbecue found at Two Bros BBQ Market to fresh Northern Italian flavors at Tre Trattoria. His favorite way to roast a chicken is to “get as much butter under the skin as possible, and then [stuff] the cavity with thyme, garlic and whole orange,” he says. Then it’s popped into a 450 degree F oven until the skin is super-dark and crispy. To finish, turn the heat down to 200 degrees F and let the chicken slow-roast until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

Eric Brennan, Post 390, Boston

Chef Eric Brennan of Boston’s Urban Tavern Post 390 has two ways to roast the perfect chicken. If the weather’s fine, he uses an outdoor grill and starts by rinsing and patting the bird dry, then spatchcocking it so the chicken can lie flat. Then it gets seasoned with rosemary, thyme, smoked paprika, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce. The chicken is roasted on a preheated outdoor barbecue on one side of the top rack. “Make sure to turn the heat off under the chicken, but leave the heat on medium on the opposite side,” he says. “Then close the lid and slowly cook the chicken, while flipping and rotating it occasionally.”

For a different take, he brines the chicken in a solution of water, salt, sugar, Meyer lemon, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary for two to three days. Then the chicken is removed, patted dry, and seasoned with salt and black pepper, and drizzled all over with olive oil. He roasts the bird in a 400 degree F oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

JW Chicken and Salsa Verde
Recipe courtesy of Jonathan Waxman
One 4-pound free-range organic chicken (fresh only)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
Salsa Verde:
1/4 cup capers in salt
4 anchovy filets
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped arugula
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped tarragon
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash the bird in hot water (this will remove any nasty juices that collect in the plastic wrap that all chickens seem to come in). Dry with paper towels.

Using kitchen shears, cut out the backbone of the chicken and remove any fat (this can be added to a chicken stock). Then, using a heavy chef’s knife, cut out the breastbone. Season the 2 halves with sea salt and black pepper.

Place the chicken halves, skin-side up, on 2 sizzle platters and dab with the olive oil. Cut the lemon in half and place a half, cut-side down, next to the chicken on each platter.

Roast the chicken for 35 minutes, basting every 10 minutes. If it is not browning well, turn it over after 15 minutes, then right it for the last 5 minutes. When it is done, remove the chicken to a platter and pour off the excess fat. Cut each breast in half and cut the thigh from the leg. Serve with salsa verde and garnish with the roasted lemon.

Salsa Verde:

Soak capers in cold water for an hour, then drain.

Soak anchovies in cold water for 15 minutes, then pat dry and remove the bones.

Using a mortar and pestle, smash the capers, anchovies and garlic, until smooth, then transfer to a large bowl.

Add all herbs and olive oil.

Season with sea salt. It should be chunky, not oily.

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