Friday, May 7, 2010

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

Roast chicken is one of those dishes that I think never goes out of style.  Anyone who can do a really good roast chicken is a good cook, even if you don't have a ton of other dishes in your repertoire.  They always say that one of the biggest tests of a new chef in a kitchen is how he cooks eggs, but I think a better (or at least an equally significant) test is how he or she cooks a chicken.  Chicken is such a great blank slate.  It works well in almost any flavor combination and can be prepared in nearly any way known to man.  It really is that versatile.  However, I have almost stopped ordering chicken entirely in restaurants because of the number of times I ended up with a slightly rubbery, bordering on tasteless piece of meat.  Part of that is my fault because I have this ridiculous aversion to dark meat, which doesn't make much sense since I really love duck.  I like braised chicken thighs, but that's about it when it comes to dark meat chicken.  Otherwise it's all breasts, all the time.  And since breasts have less fat, it's much much easier to dry them out and end up with that aforementioned rubbery, tasteless piece of meat.

That's where roast chicken comes in.  With really good roast chicken (or really good fried chicken for that matter), you can get a juicy breast, crispy skin, and tons of flavor.  The trick is finding really good roast chicken.  A few restaurants in NYC have it, but a really good roast chicken is kind of hard to find.  Thus began my obsession with finding myself a really good roast chicken recipe to make at home.  Generally Alex and I just roast bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and call it a day because when you roast a whole chicken you end up with all sorts of meat (mostly dark meat) leftover that I don't know what to do with.  But you just don't get quite the same effect with chicken breasts as you do with a whole chicken so I went to the butcher and bought myself a whole organic chicken to experiment with.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, experimenting is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world.  Obviously some of my experiments fail (and some of those that do fail, do so miserably), but some of them are such smashing successes that they keep me coming back for more.  And when it comes to whole chicken, buying a whole chicken (organic or not) is often less expensive than buying just the breasts because of the time and effort it takes for the butcher to prepare the breasts.  So even if we end up not eating the dark meat, in the end we are saving money because we have chicken breasts to eat, plus a carcass to make homemade stock with!  Aren't I economical?

Anyway, this was a very good roast chicken dish.  I'm not sure that it was restaurant-worthy so to speak, but it was very nice nonetheless.  I find that the only way to really get crisp skin on a roast chicken is to flatten it out and cook it under a brick, but I keep hoping that we will find another (more traditional) way.  The meat, including the breasts, was nice and juicy and fairly flavorful.  I did enjoy the pan juices, although I might have preferred that it was a bit thicker - more along the lines of a gravy, than pan juices.

Recipe after the jump!

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Thyme
September 1999

3 tbsp minced fresh thyme
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 7lb. roasting chicken
1 lemon, quartered
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp all purpose flour

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