November 07, 2013
Million Dollar Chicken
It's that time of year.
That time of year when the mind turns to roasted poultry with golden, crispy, crackling skin. Glistening with rendered drippings, and tantalizing the tastebuds with its distinctive perfume. Nothing in the world smells like roast chicken.
Oh wait, did you think I meant turkey?
Whatever would give you that idea?
This recipe is from The Standard in New York City, where I have never eaten, but when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it.
It all starts with bread: Two thick slices of sourdough. You place them on the bottom of a cast-iron skillet and roast a chicken on top of them. The chicken renders its fat, and the bread soaks it up greedily. Then you glaze the chicken with the most delicious creme fraiche glaze, which leaves it golden and tangy and amazing. This, too, wanders its way down into the bread, making it more scrumptious still -- the tang of the sourdough meeting with the tang of the creme fraiche... I don't know how to put into words. The scent wafting from the oven alone...
You'll remove the chicken when it's roasted to perfection, and gaze down at what you think is soggy bread. But then you'll flip the slices over and find them crisped, possibly burned -- certainly blackened. Anxiously, you will think that you've done something wrong, that they are too dark for consumption on the one side and too soggy to be much good on the other, but you will slice them and serve them alongside the chicken all the same. (Because I said so.)
One bite will convince you. (I need not try, really.) Something about the bite of the char on the bread and the almost-buttery, brothy chicken drippings, and the aforementioned tang (did I mention the tang?) brings it all together. Oh yeah, and then there's the succulent, moist, redolent chicken.
Why are you still reading this? Get thee hence to the meat market and get thee a chicken!
Million Dollar Chicken
3 1/2 pound whole chicken
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 slices sourdough bread, cut 3/4-inch thick (day old bread is perfect!)
for the glaze
1 c. creme fraiche
the zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. shallots, grated on a fine grater or zester
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper (Even if you don't like spicy food, don't skimp on the Aleppo. I get mine at Penzey's Spices)
additional lemon slices
coarse sea salt, such as Maldon
The day before you plan to cook the chicken, season it well inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the garlic, 1 of the lemons, the bay leaf and thyme. Refrigerate.
(Tie the legs together with kitchen twine if you are so inclined, but I never do.)
On the day/night you plan to cook the bird, take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to roast it to allow it to come up to room temp (this will assist in even cooking). Preheat the oven to 425º F.
In a large cast-iron pan, lightly oiled with olive oil, put the slices of bread in the center of the pan and then place the chicken on top of the bread. Drizzle with olive oil or brush with butter, and season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Place the pan in the preheated oven and roast for 40 to 50 minutes, basting it every 12 to 15 minutes with the fat and drippings that render from the bird (or additional oil/butter, if the drippings are all soaked up by the bread).
While the chicken roasts, assemble the glaze: simply whisk together all the ingredients and set aside.
When the chicken is nearly done (the juices running pink and/or the legs are beginning to wiggle a bit in their sockets), take a pastry brush and generously slather on the creme fraiche glaze. Continue to roast for another 5 minutes or so -- the glaze will begin to caramelize. Brush on another layer of glaze and let this caramelize.
At this point the chicken should be cooked through and nicely golden brown. (Be sure to test it with a meat thermometer to be sure.) The sourdough underneath the chicken will be nicely browned and crisped on the side in contact with the pan, and moist and juicy on the side in contact with the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. Cut the sourdough into 2 to 4 pieces and serve alongside the chicken. Garnish with lemon wedges and sprinkle with sea salt.