Beloved by world-famous chefs and home cooks alike, a classic roast chicken is one of the most timeless and versatile recipes you can master. In Michael Ruhlman's version, the pan drippings pack enough pure chicken flavor to make a rich, velvety sauce.
Truss chicken: Preheat oven to 450 F, preferably convection. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. (Optional: stuff cavity with a whole lemon to prop up the breast.) Cut about 3 feet of twine, lay it flat on a clean surface, and position chicken breast side up on the middle of the twine. Tie the legs together with a single knot. Flip the chicken over, bring twine down the length of the bird, wrap it under the wings, tighten, and tie off the twine behind the neck; trim excess twine. (The goal of trussing is to make the chicken as compact as possible, preventing hot air from circulating in the cavity and drying out the breasts.)
Season chicken: Lift the chicken with one hand and generously sprinkle salt over it with the other, rotating the chicken to make sure it’s evenly coated; place the salted chicken in a cast-iron skillet. Roast until the juices run clear, about 1 hour. (Note: As the chicken roasts at a high temperature, the fat will naturally smoke. Cleaning your oven before roasting will minimize the smoke.)
Pan sauce: Transfer chicken to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and let it rest. Meanwhile, put skillet with pan drippings on the stove over medium heat. Peel and thinly slice onion. Use a vegetable peeler to shave off ribbons of carrot until you reach the core; discard the core. Place onions and carrot shavings in the skillet; stir with the wooden spatula, scraping up the browned chicken drippings (or "fond") on the bottom of the skillet. Deglaze the skillet with wine, stir, and allow the liquid to reduce completely, about 3–5 minutes. When it has reduced, add 1 cup of water, stir, and let the liquid reduce again until thickened, 3–5 minutes. Meanwhile, carve the chicken.
Carve chicken: Cut away the twine and discard. Separate the leg and thigh from the breast by using the knife to pop open the leg joint, making it easier to sever; separate the leg and thigh into two pieces if you wish. Cut off the wings and neck. (Optional: place neck into the skillet while the sauce is reducing for extra flavor.) Run the blade along the breastbone to remove the breasts, leaving skin intact. If you wish, cut the breasts into thick slices. Transfer to a serving platter.
Optional: Use the carcass to make chicken stock. Place it in an oven-safe pot along with vegetables (such as carrot, celery, and/or onion) and add enough water to cover. Put the pot in a 200 F oven for 6 hours or overnight. Strain the stock and store in a lidded container in the refrigerator or freezer.Once pan sauce has thickened and looks caramel-brown, turn off the heat. Leaving the vegetables in the skillet, spoon the sauce over the chicken; serve immediately.