From Samin Nosrat to Julia Child, Here’s What Top Chefs’ Roast Chicken Recipes Have in Common

The first time I successfully roasted a chicken was the first time I felt like a real cook. I remember it very well: I was about 20 years old and I had a guy who offered me butterflies for dinner. Meals I typically made for friends — brackish puttanesca filled with olives, skillet burgers with too much cheese, slow-simmered pozole — felt too sloppy or overworked.

The roast chicken, on the other hand, was unmistakably classic; it was the kind of meal a cream-clad Nancy Meyers protagonist would pull out of the oven before brushing waves of perfectly tousled hair from her eyes (just in time to see her ex-lover gazing adoringly at her from the frame of the kitchen door). Simply put, roast chicken was a symbol of adulthood and domestic life, and at the time, I desperately wanted to appear as if both were effortless for me. So I spent hours scanning roast chicken recipes online, noting the similarities and differences between them.

Related: 5 tips for buying better butter at the grocery store, according to an expert

So much for effortless, right?

The resulting recipe, a mix of Ina Garten and Julia Child’s roast chicken recipes, inspired me to go to a real butcher for the first time in my life, instead of just relying on the meat department. from the local supermarket. I paid over $7 for a roll of good french butter.

The morning before my crush was due for dinner, I woke up early to go to the farmer’s market for the prettiest parsley I could find. That night, I pulled a perfectly browned chicken out of the oven (with wingtips that were, admittedly, maybe a little too molasses brown) the moment someone knocked on my apartment door. .

We spent the evening listening to a playlist he probably spent far too long building while scraping meat off the bones with his fingertips, mopping up the juices with bits of toast. It was divine.

While my crush fell apart soon after, this roast chicken recipe remained in constant rotation, with occasional seasonal tweaks and substitutions. This week, as I was finalizing a spring roast chicken recipe for Home and kitchen tool, I revisited some of my favorite roast chicken recipes. Most of them have three main things in common which, if you keep them in mind when cooking in your own kitchen, will have you riffing on when preparing a simple rotisserie chicken – and maybe be to allow a Nancy Meyers moment of your own.

salt

Jacques Pépin’s simple roast and basted chicken recipe is incredibly minimalist. It has three ingredients: a 3 ½ pound chicken, salt and pepper to taste. This tells you how important each of these ingredients is, especially the salt.

There are a few benefits to salting chicken before roasting it. The salt draws moisture out of the chicken, resulting in crispy, golden skin (aka the best part of roasting a chicken at home). Then, of course, there is the taste element. It could come from real salt, as in the case of Julia Child’s favorite roast chicken; it can come from a dry or wet brine, like Samin Nosrat’s Buttermilk Marinated Roast Chicken; it could also come from other savory ingredients like Alison Roman’s Anchovy Butter Chicken or – one of my recent favorites – Eric Kim’s Fish Sauce Butter Roast Chicken.

Humidity

Many of my favorite roast chicken recipes, including those by Julia Child and Ina Garten, combine butter with the chicken, either by brushing it over the raw roast or placing it under the skin of the chicken. However, you can also use other fats. Alton Brown’s Chicken in a Casserole, for example, calls for peanut or canola oil, while Mark Bittman opts for olive oil.

Basically, you just want to make sure your rotisserie chicken doesn’t end up with dry, stringy meat, an unfortunate byproduct of your chicken being less than moist. Fat equals both flavor and moisture (although you could always go back to Jacques Pépin’s simplistic route and rely on basting to provide both).

Aromatics

Now, that’s not necessary for a good rotisserie chicken; once again, I point to that of Jacques Pépin or that of Samin Nosrat. However, the aromatics are a way for home cooks to really play with the flavor profile of chicken at home. Julia Child’s Roast Chicken is adorned with a nuanced blend of mirepoix, mixed herbs, parsley stalks, celery leaves and lemon slices. Ina Garten’s roast chicken is based on flavors of thyme, yellow onion and fennel.

Home and kitchen tool Food’s Spring Roast Chicken is also rich in seasonal aromatics, including dill, leeks, fennel and lemon zest. It’s the perfect weekend dinner, served with a nice chilled white wine and, maybe, writer Maggie Hennessy’s riffable panzanella?

This story first appeared in Home and kitchen tool’s weekly food newsletter, The Bite. Subscribe for first access to special recipes, tutorials, and deep dives into food history.


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