After years of cooking professionally, I recently became puzzled by one of the most basic cooking techniques: how to roast a chicken. I’ve always used what I considered the “traditional” method: seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and fat (olive oil or butter) and roasted at a moderate temperature of 350F.
But suddenly it seems like every famous chef/restaurant has a signature technique that is “so much better than your mother’s roast chicken.” There’s the Zuni Cafe roast chicken, the Chez Panisse roast chicken, the River Cottage roast chicken, and so many more. Just Google “roast chicken” and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of recipes for this incredibly simple dish.
The version that caught my eye was the Thomas Keller method. I first read about it on LTH Forum where everyone who had made it raved about it. I just had to try this one for myself.
Keller, the much acclaimed chef of The French Laundry in Yountville, CA, calls for roasting a dry chicken (wash it and then pat dry with paper towels) seasoned with salt and pepper at a high temperature of 450F. The result is an incredibly flavorful and juicy chicken with crispy skin. And the best part is that this method is very low-maintenance – there’s no basting or even a reason to open the oven door, and you don’t even have to make a jus or a pan sauce!
To make dinner even more simple, I decided to roast some sliced fingerling potatoes along with the chicken. Wow! These were the most amazing potatoes I’d ever eaten. Flavored by the chicken and a bit of salt, the potatoes were incredibly rich with a crisp bite that somehow seemed to melt in my mouth.
This meal turned into a true one-pot wonder in my cast-iron pan (and by now you should know how much I love using my cast-iron pan for rustic dishes), but you can easily use a roasting pan instead.
Crispy Roast Chicken & Fingerling Potatoes (adapted from Thomas Keller)
1 2-to-3 1/2 pound chicken, giblets removed
1 pound fingerling potatoes
2 teaspoons fresh chopped herbs (Keller recommends thyme, I used ramp greens because I had them handy)
Preheat the oven to 450F. Wash the chicken under cold running water and pat the inside and outside dry with paper towels. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then truss the chicken with kitchen twine so that the wings are anchored against the body and the legs are tied together. Season the outside of the chicken liberally with salt.
Slice the fingerling potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick strips. Toss with salt and arrange on the bottom of the cast-iron skillet or roasting pan. Top with the trussed chicken, breast-side up.
Roast the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165F to 170F and the juices run clear, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Note that the oven will be smokey. Remove the chicken from the pan to rest on a cutting board.
Add the herbs to the pan and toss with the potatoes. Carefully tilt the hot pan so the fat pools at one side. Use a spoon to baste the fat over the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes, then carve and serve with the potatoes.