When you think of a Thomas Keller recipe, does the word “simple” come to mind? Me either. Or so I thought.
That is until I stumbled upon his self-authored recipe on epicurious and had to read it a few times through to make sure I wasn’t missing something that would complicate the whole thing. Turns out I was able to do that all on my own. But anyway, Keller’s recipe is almost stupid in its simplicity. One trussed chicken, some kosher salt, pepper and herbs (if you like), a hot oven and an hour. Voila! Seriously.
But me being me, I researched the heck out of it and consulted the chefs at work regarding the smoke and spatter factor. Upon consideration, I decided to put the chicken on a bed of potatoes, garlic cloves and fennel to provide not only a starch, but a vehicle for that tasty chicken fat (and honestly, who doesn’t love sucking the goo out of a roasted garlic clove?).
As a side, I tapped the brains of our pastry chef who happens to love chicken and Brussels sprouts, for his method. I’ve only ever steamed sprouts because I never bothered to find another way to do them. Turns out, there are several. This particular time I made a mise en place of finely diced shallot, about six diced small cloves of garlic and bacon lardons then set it aside. I halved a pound of sprouts, cut off the rough ends and peeled away the outer leaves. I blanched them for three minutes in heavily-salted water, drained and then immediately shocked them in nearly-frozen water. They were then drained again and patted dry with paper towels.
I cooked the bacon, removed it from the pan, sauteed the shallots and garlic in the bacon grease, added about three tablespoons of white wine (the remains of a chenin blanc from work, it was perfect for this) and reduced. Unfortunately my dinner company is the sort of traveling bachelor who doesn’t keep butter stocked, so the reduction was lacking the smoothness and soft flavor I’d hoped for, but it worked out. I added the bacon, cooked off the booze, added the sprouts and let them go until heated through and the whites ever so translucent. In hindsight, I should have added less wine and browned the sprouts a bit before adding to the mix, they didn’t brown at all and the bacon went slightly soft on me. Ahh well. Next time.
Due to a bit of a time hiccup with my dining companion, the chicken stayed in the oven for a total of about an hour and 15, the last 20 of which at a lower temperature and about 10 to rest but I know what you’re thinking – overcooking is the death of every roast chicken, right? Not this one. This was a freak chicken. Perhaps it was the trussing, the salt or the oven temperature I don’t know, but I do know that I can’t imagine making another chicken recipe ever again but this one. It rivals my beloved compound-butter-under-the-skin chicken. That’s saying something.
Mission accomplished. Two very happy diners, an emptied bottle of delicious Moshin chardonnay 2005, a new recipe with which to dazzle and impress. Thanks to the chefs for their wisdom and information, to my dining companion for being my favorite dining companion ever and my restaurant for letting me pilfer supplies. You’re all the best.