A Simple Roast Chicken
- 4 lbs free range bird, fed either an organic or natural diet
- sea salt, to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- herbs de Provence
- piment d’ville, or espelette pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 whole head of garlic, cut in two
- fresh thyme
- fresh rosemary
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- fresh tarragon
Recently I had the good fortune to preview two amazing new releases from Four Graces Winery, the stellar 2015 Chardonnay 'Gran Moraine' and the perfect 2014 Pinot Noir 'Lindsay's Reserve'. Being a foodie, my inclinations immediately ran to what would go well with each wine. Then it struck me like an errant lightning bolt. Could there be a single dish that works perfectly for both wines? This would solve the age old dilemma we sometime face as hosts when inviting friends who only like white or red wines. Could it be as easy as a simple roast chicken?
The 2015 Chardonnay is made with fruit from the 'Gran Moraine' vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. The marine sedimentary based soils and moraines are reminiscent of the Cote d’Or in Burgundy and produce excellent fruit. Upon tasting the chardonnay, prior to eating, I found it had a rich, full mouth feel with beautiful toasted vanilla custard flavor with a touch of pear and fresh lemon. It is interesting to see how food changes aspects of the wine and brings out different nuances. In this case, the roast chicken brought out a more luscious, rich and creamy palate.
The 2014 Pinot Noir 'Lindsay's Reserve' is a remarkable wine that exhibits everything I love about Oregon pinot noirs. The first sips showed beautiful cherry, plum and raspberry flavors with a touch of olive, tea and pomegranate in the background. An enjoyable wine just to sit and sip but became more three dimensional when I drank it with the roast chicken. The chicken brought out more of an austere palate punctuated with darker fruits and earthy mushrooms. It was a sensational experience you should experiment with at home.
“Classics can be phenomenal when done right. A simple roast chicken dish could be the best thing you ever eat.” ~ Joe Bastianich, noted restauranteur and tv star
The quest: a perfect simple roast chicken. A humble and deeply satisfying dish but somehow as elusive as a unicorn or five leaf clover. How hard can it really be to roast a simple chicken?
Not hard if you follow a few simple rules…
The general rules of proper roasting and eating of chicken:
1. Pick a free range bird about 3.5 pounds who is fed either an organic or natural diet.
2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Let warm up all the way before cooking bird.
3. Season chicken with liberal amounts of sea salt, black pepper, herbs de Provence and piment d’ville or espelette pepper. Be sure to heavily salt the opening of the cavity. These are the crispiest pieces of crackly crispy chicken and, in my humble opinion, the true reward of whomever gets to bone the bird.
4. Stuff half a lemon, a whole head of garlic cut in two and more fresh thyme and rosemary than you think. The lemon perfumes the bird in such a pleasant and nuanced way. Cooking is about building subtle layers that are almost imperceptible.
5. Put a wire rack on a cookie sheet or sheet pan and roast bird 40 minutes breast side down. Yes, set your damned kitchen timer for this one, it’s science.
6. Flip over and roast another full 40 minutes breast side up.
7. Stand bird up with legs flailing in the air for 20 minutes before you cut the bird. The juices will redistribute throughout the bird and keep it juicy beyond imagination. Do not give into temptation, be strong.
8. Always roast a whole bird. It is silly, more expensive and wasteful not to do the whole bird. You will end up with enough meals for a few days and two to three quarts of homemade chicken broth.
9. Cut the breasts, wings, legs and thighs off. If you are smart you will eat both ‘oysters’ before anyone notices. The oysters are the most tender pieces of chicken that are located where the thigh bone connects to the carcass. Shh, don’t tell anyone.
10. Eat the breast the first day then the dark meat the second. It almost sounds like a commandment so abide by it. The dude does… And on the second day, God said… The breast comes out of the oven so beautifully juicy and tender yet somehow loses that quality by day two.
I like to serve my roast chicken how they do in Burgundy, France. After you are done roasting the chicken pour off excess fat. Add one cup of water to the roasting pan and scrap any crusty bits off. Strain the drippings into a clean sauce pot and add a ½ cup of heavy cream and a big tablespoon of Dijon mustard. If you have any tarragon or thyme growing in your garden chop a little and add. Bring to a boil and cook till thickened, about five minutes. The cream sauce really acts as a bridge and enhances both wines.