Sated: Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken

Note: I wrote this piece about three years ago, and although I’m mostly vegetarian these days, if I do ever cook meat at home this option would be right at the tippy top of the list.


When the hubs himself actually suggests we do a cleanse, you know there’s been some culinary carnage happening. Two words–Thanksgiving cruise. I believe there is no additional detail required.

When we got home yesterday afternoon, refreshed, tired, and intestinally gummed-up from a week spent eating basically everything we typically try not to eat at home, all we wanted was clean food. And not too much of it. Also no booze. None. Not even wine. To boot, since we had no groceries and I was also headed back out on a business trip this morning, dinner had to be a straightforward known entity not requiring complexity of either ingredient list or preparation.

I’ve been a fan of Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken recipe ever since I first made it a few years ago. The title totally says it–this dish is not only dead simple to make, but is perhaps the best roast chicken I’ve ever had, whether made with my apprentice-level paws or anyone with more refined or professional cooking skills. Plus, the recipe yields a carcass perfect for simmering into broth, and enough leftover chicken to eat straight out of the fridge for three nights.

This is also a dish that young Scooter can help with, happily grinding salt and pepper into the bird cavity that I hold gaping for him (my chicken bacteria phobia requires one person to wield the grinder with clean hands while the other manages the dirty birdie). Then we “rain the salt” over the breast, as Keller recommends, the hubs uses his magical military knots to truss, and into the oven we go.

One hour of sitting on my ass later, we pull out of the oven a perfectly browned, crisp, succulent and fragrant chicken, triple-checked for doneness by my darling spouse with a meat thermometer instead of using Keller’s recommendation to check the looseness of the joints, because, again, the chicken bacteria phobia thing. After waiting the temptation-laden 10-15 required meat resting period, during with the dog has a chicken scent fit of epic proportions, it’s time. 

There are no flourishes necessary here—all you need is this perfectly cooked chicken, a small bowl of drippings in which to dip your decadent mouthfuls, and a bit of bitter. Butter, you say? Indeed. Keller suggests spreading a bit on your carved slices of chicken as you eat. It sounds weird, but I tell you it’s legit. The moistness of the meat, the palpable salt covering that perfectly crispy skin and infusing the taste just so, combines with the creaminess of the butter in a way that is nothing if not mouth-watering. Add in the drippings and you’re in another galaxy. I over-cooked the steamed broccoli and green beans, but who cares? Pass me a slice with skin, and don’t forget the juice.

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