Roast Chicken: Getting Dirty With the Bird

You know exactly where it came from. This thing used to be an animal. You’ll want to name it.

18th Apr 2006 Nick Kindelsperger


Hello, there.  The first step to perfectly roasting a chicken is to get acquainted with the subject.  At first I hid it underneath the wrapping when chopping and prepping, like I was ashamed that it might see me.  But the only way to really get the chicken to do what you want is to get personal.  You'll be shoving lemons and such inside its cavity short enough.  Don't get squeamish.

First, remove the packet of giblets that the butcher so nicely laid inside and side aside.  It needs a good rinse, to get ready for the festivities.  Run cold water into the cavity and pat dry with a paper towel.  Then take a nice pinch of salt and pepper and rub the inside down.  Now it's time.

Poulet Roti

  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 lbs
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 onion
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • A little chopped parsley

From Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook

Before you start manhandling the love bird, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  It's good to get the veggies cut and ready to go, and luckily that takes all of about 1 minute, for you just need to halve the lemon and onion and pluck one spring of the rosemary off.  (Note: I was out of thyme.  The produce store was out of thyme.  I know I could have found some, but I had a chicken under my arm, and it was much easier just not to.)


", I'm not going to try and explain how to truss a chicken with twine."  You're not?  Bourdain sure doesn't.  He does go into a quick and easy method where you cut right under the heel of one of the legs and slide the other one in.  Sounded simple.  An hour later I was trying decipher the passage for its meaning.  I called my roommate Max over for help.  Then I figured out that my grocery store, Gracie's, had cut off the foot.  Not sure quite what to do, and without the proper twine, I went for the only inflammable object I knew could do it right: black thread.  It's not a good sight, but it got the job done.


Now it's time to get down and dirty.  First thing to do is slide a tablespoon under the skin on top of each breast.  Be careful--don't break the skin.  The easiest way is to the heart is at the opening by the legs.  There will be some clear skin to poke through, but once that is gone, the butter will slide nicely into place.


Then shove the onion, lemon, and rosemary into the bird cavity.  I ended up needing to cut the half onion into half so everything could fit snugly in place.  Liberally salt and pepper the outside and then go at the bird with some softened butter.  Really get all the hard to reach spots and evenly get the essential oils everywhere.  You'll need about 2 tablespoons, which can be easily softened by leaving it out on the counter, or forgetting to and putting it in the microwave for a few seconds.


In the roasting pan cut the other half of the onion into half and place it on the rack.  Then put the wonderful looking giblets on top.


Stick the whole chicken on top of the onion-giblet wonderfulness, pour 1/2 cup of the white wine into the roasting pan and slide into the oven.  Let it cook for 30 minutes.


He doesn't give a specific amount of time, but Bourdain suggests basting the chicken every once and while, as well as moving the pan around in the oven to avoid hot spots.  I was so nervous I basted every five minutes and shifted the pan every single time I opened up the oven (which was a lot).   After the excruciatingly slow 30 minutes have passed, crank the heat up to 450 degrees and watch as the sickly looking bird crisps up to a glorious toasted hue.  Cook for 25 minutes more.


Remove the heavenly creation and place on a cutting board, but be still young ones!  Let it sit for 15 minutes, which will seem like 30.  But that doesn't mean you can't pick off pieces at will.


That will leave you with plenty of time for the secret weapon to this recipe's success.  The whole time the bird roasted, juices fell into the pan, were evaporated, and turned into glorious brown and black bits.  Take a wooden spoon and dislodge them from the pan, pour in a cup of white wine, and place it over medium high heat.  Reduce the sauce by half.


When the sauce has thickened, remove the onion and giblits and throw away, toss in a tablespoon of butter, and stir in.  When the sauce is done put in a little chopped parsley and transfer into whatever fancy gravy boat you have.

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Cutting a chicken is freaking hard, as my piss-poor example properly shows.  Had I bothered to actually look the right way to go about the delicate business, I would have had some vague idea.  But no.  I attacked the bird with zeal and a very large knife.  I whacked, hit bone, and didn't dislodge anything except a nice spray of chicken juice which ended up all over poor Max.  At least the chicken was juicy.

Once I disloged a hunk of the meat, I felt okay.  I poured the high-powered sauce over everything and sat down to this.


A perfectly juicy, succulent, crisped-skin bird.  It's just about this time that those feelings of love disappear and the hunger pangs start.  Forks start to scratch the plate and busy fingers pick the good parts off the bone.


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