On our main cookbook shelf sits Mark Bittman's bright red tome of a cookbook, the one with recipes for everything. Flip to Page 645 of our copy, and you'll see a recipe bordered in the scribbles of my boyfriend's scratchy reporter handwriting. There are tweaks and exclamation marks.
Now that we've got this recipe for roast chicken down, it deserves an exclamation mark or two.
I know what you're thinking. This is probably the first thing we should have learned how to do. Everyone knows how to roast a basic chicken, right? Or they should. Now we do, and it's one of the best things ever.
It took a few tries (five or so?) to get it right. We tweaked the technique. Added rosemary. Took it away for a few attempts and added lemon. One time we used kumquats. Next time we're going to rub the whole chicken with adobo paste, which we just made for chicken wings on the blog.
We tried several methods and tools, some more complicated than others, but nothing beats a cast-iron skillet. Danny even ordered a roasting pan after reading an article in Cook's Illustrated, but we soon ditched it in favor of Bittman's way.
For that crispier, browner chicken skin, it's important to pat the chicken dry before rubbing olive oil into it. The brine, though not mandatory, is what we always do because it results in a more plump, juicy chicken. The sugar and salt brine is something Danny didn't forget when we asked a local chef how his chicken got so crispy and delicious. Sugar, he told us.
Wine and garlic are thrown into the skillet to mix in with the chicken juices and make the most glorious sauce. It's rich and brown and when you pour it over the chicken, there's nothing left to do but pick the whole piece up with your hands. Forget the forks. Grab the napkins.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend, Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.