Monday, March 10, 2008

Thomas Keller's Favorite Roast Chicken...and Albert The Mouse

Let me begin this post by telling you about the newest member of our family...a pet.

A mouse named Albert.

Okay, he’s not really our pet. He’s a small, weirdly-adorable, disease-carrying interloper who nearly scared the crap out of me this morning when he decided to blow his cover and run across the living room floor and skid to a stop behind a shelf.

At first I thought I was seeing things. Perhaps I was still in some kind of sleep state and required caffeine and a shower? This idea set in for a few minutes and I convinced myself that I was, in fact, seeing things. I re-gained my sense of confidence and trust in the world.

But then, Albert decided his position was precarious and there were too many children hovering about who might grab him, stuff him into doll clothes and make him eat pretend baby food in the pretend kitchen and he made a break for it.

My sense of well-being was crushed.

So, I did what any self-respecting mother would do. I picked up one child under each arm and ran. I ran as if I were walking across hot coals carrying two bags of sand, but still, I ran right into the bathroom where David was attempting to take a peaceful shower. I put the girls down safely in the bathroom and ordered them to stay put the way someone in Kansas would, say, order children to stay put in the root cellar until the tornado blows over.

The children stood there looking at me as if I had lost my mind. This must be the vacant bewildered stare that children have when they realize their once loving parents have gone truly mad. Great.

David said, What’s wrong?" And I said, “Mouse.” And he said "What?" and opened the shower door. And I said "Mouse" again only this time I was not quite sure why he didn't understand that if I was saying "Mouse" over and over it was because there was a "Mouse" scurrrying around the living room and a "Mouse" leaving bits of vermin and disease throughout our home, where our children roll around naked trying to do sommersaults and Edie eats scraps of fish off the floor. Wasn't it clear what "Mouse" means?

"Mouse"? he asked. "Yes, a mouse." "Do you mean there's a mouse in the house?" "Yes, there's a mouse in the house with a clock on a rock...what are we?...Living in a Dr. Seuss book????"

Why wasn't he running to the kitchen, rifling under the cupboards and squeezing the life out of this thing with his manly Australian hands? Hadn't he heard about the bubonic plague? Didn't he know that our kitchen cupboards probably looked like a casting call for "Ratatouille"?

So, I said "Mouse" again only this time I pointed to the living room, as if that cleared it up, and glanced at the kids the way parents do when they want to keep important information from the children, only this time my kids were looking up at me intently, reading my face and my bad attempt at chirades and Lucy took the opportunity to squeal hopefully, "We have a mousey?"

And without any thought or hesitation she grabbed her sister's hands and said, "We have a mousey, Edie!" and the two of them held hands and skipped in a circle.

"I guess the only one who's scared of the mouse is Mommy." David said...and smiled...and closed the shower door. Wise ass.

Now that you're thrilled you don't live at my house, I leave you to embark on an Elmer Fudd-like attempt to rid our house of Albert. But before I leave, I want to change your life with the most incredible and easy family dinner on the planet. We had it last night, courtesy of Thomas Keller. I have not adapted this recipe at all and give it to you in the chefs own words. This recipe for roast chicken is so simple and unfussy that you won't believe the chicken can possibly turn out so juicy and the skin, so salty and crisp, with absolutely no effort on your part. Just follow his recipe verbatim.

It's effortless and it speaks to how often simple is just better.

xxxooo YM (and Albert)


Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken

Serves 2 - 4


One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)

Accompaniments (optional)

Unsalted butter
Dijon mustard


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it's a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.

Now, salt the chicken — I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone — I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want. Roast it until it's done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Remove the twine. Separate the middle wing joint and eat that immediately. Remove the legs and thighs. I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I'm cooking with. But I take the chicken butt for myself. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip — until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat myself. These are the cook's rewards. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is not meant to be superelegant. Slather the meat with fresh butter. Serve with mustard on the side and, if you wish, a simple green salad. You'll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it's so good.



ntsc said...

Don't forget to leave some for Albert

cheesemongerswife said...

your post evoked a waterfall of tears..some of laughter and some of plain old sadness as I realized that I would be sleeping alone tonight for the first time in 3 years. Simon is on his way to Ireland and I just ate 4 pieces of cheese garlic bread by myself...washed it down with a coke zero. so so sad. what if there is a mouse in our house..don't think i could handle that on my own today. oh..the joys of the first year of marriage..pre-baby.

Shannon said...

I could live on roasted chicken skin alone.

cheesemongerswife said...

chicken skin...pig skin...both are freakishly wonderful when crisp.

Annie K. Nodes said...

Chicken skin is manna. MANNA, I tell you. Just ask Albert.

ntsc said...

When I did Ruhlman's and Polcyn's
Roasted Bacon the pig skin was ambrosia.

Of course my cardiologist had hysterics.

Cary said...

I have never craved chicken so badly in my life...thank you! (I think)

Julie said...

This has been my go-to chicken recipe for the past year or so. I do it pretty much exactly as instructed by chef Keller, except I'm lazy and I don't truss. But then I become productive and make a lovely pan sauce while the chicken is resting, to spoon over the rice or mashed or whatever else we're having.

Oh, and I really do have to tell you something from vast and bitter experience. Trust me, there is no such thing as "a" mouse. Just one mouse? Nah. Albert's got friends and relations.

tammy said...

Ah, yes, I have made this and it is perfection.

As for Albert, he's got extended family at our place. But I'm afraid we're all booked up!

Anonymous said...

I made this roasted chicken tonight, and it was the best roasted chicken I made to date! Even better than Amateur Gourmet's version of Alice Waters' roasted chicken (which is pretty dang good) with fennel seeds, paprika and fresh thyme. Thank you!

I do have one question: How do you all keep your oven from becoming a chicken fat splatter mess and smoking up your entire house? What did I do wrong?

A San Francisco Mama

Danielle said...

I'm a new reader to your blog, and saw your link to this chicken in a more recent post. We tried it out tonight, and as you predicted, the forks and knives were abondoned after the first fiw tasty tasy bites. Horray for chicken.