I’ve made this dish at least a dozen times since I first saw the recipe in Cook’s Illustrated a year ago. It’s a very simple, set-and-forget procedure:
- Lightly brown a whole chicken in a dutch oven with a little olive oil – 5 minutes for the breast side, 8 minutes for the bottom. Add a chopped onion, chopped celery, a few garlic cloves, some rosemary and a bay leaf at the start of the browning.
- When the vegetables have browned a bit, cover the pot with a sheet of foil and then the lid. Place the pot at the bottom of a 250 degree oven and cook for 90 to 110 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.
- Remove from the oven, remove the chicken from the pot and let it rest under foil for 20 minutes.
- Strain the cooking juices, skim off the fat, add some lemon juice. (“A squeeze of lemon juice will always save your ass.” – Eric Ripert)
- Serve the chicken with the juice as a light sauce.
Chicken cooked this way has a very concentrated flavor, but it also has flabby skin:
Yesterday I was watching the “Roast Chicken” episode of In Search of Perfection. Heston Blumenthal also slow-cooks his chicken, but solves the soft skin problem by searing the roasted bird at very high heat in oil for less than two minutes. I thought I give that a try. While the chicken rested, I wiped out the dutch oven and returned it to the stove, letting it heat up on the largest burner for 10 minutes.
Once the chicken had rested, I splashed some oil in the pot and followed it immediately with the chicken. After two minutes, I indeed had very crispy skin – mostly stuck to the pot bottom. It wasn’t a total loss:
During the resting phase I also made some braised carrots, using Blumenthal’s method: medium low heat with a few tablespoons of butter – no water or salt – tightly covered. He claims that the carrots will release enough liquid to prevent burning. He was right.
Final plating: chicken (with skin from the bottom), sauce, carrots, and some re-crisped leftover roasted fingerling potatoes.
Yes, the plate needs something green. They can’t all be beauty shots.
I’ll try the crisping step again the next time I make this, but I will pat the chicken dry before adding it to the hot oil, since it had accumulated moisture from sitting under the foil. I might also skip the foil altogether and let the chicken skin air dry.