I don’t know about you but growing up, roast chicken was the way my parents fed us when they didn’t have time to make anything, but still wanted to eat something healthier than fast food. We’d stop by the grocery store on the way home, grab a $5 roast chicken, a bag of salad, and some rolls and call it a weeknight meal.
In the grocery stores we went to, the chickens were roasted on those huge rotating rotisserie wheels, 5 per stick, 25 per wheel, and the ovens had huge windows so you can see as their skins got all browned and pretty. Seeing this contraption for roasting contributed to my hazy notion that roast chicken was probably best left to the professionals.
Then my dad bought a fancy rotisserie machine that we used probably all of 3 times. But even then, we had to chop up the chicken pieces and roast them in a metal basket. Not the same effect, and also, ours never turned out to be quite as tasty.When I was about 13 and I found this cookbook, in which there was a recipe for oven-roasted “Engagement chicken.” The intro to this recipe in the cookbook claimed that over the few times the chicken had been made by the authors for their boyfriends (and always, the lady was making the chicken for the gentleman), the result was that her boyfriend proposed. Though pretty superstitious, their claim about roast chicken was exciting and puzzling to me as a new teenager.
But even after this knowledge, I was intimidated to try making roast chicken at home. Until I found this recipe on Food52.
Now, I have never been to Zuni’s Café, but I noticed the chefs are frequently quoted in one of my favorite cookbooks: the Flavor Bible. So I definitely trust their judgement on roast chicken, and do plan to eat there in the near future. Their method is a dry brine the night before, and then a high temperature oven, and a slow roasting time. I followed the method from the Food52 recipe and am totally pleased with the result. I decided to brine mine with orange zest, salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, and garlic and the result was a delicious, flavorful, perfectly salty roast.This roasted chicken didn’t spark any marriage proposals (and I’m already married anyways! No chicken required for that guy, though I did make him a lot of pasta before he proposed…maybe there’s a secret superstitious recipe in there somewhere) but it elevated our Sunday night meal and got me through this past week of sickness. I caught a persistent cough, and so I was grateful to have enough chicken leftovers to make soup, which has soothed my aching chest and warmed me up throughout the week.
While this roast chicken takes a bit of prep and cook time—you get an immensely satisfying sense of achievement to see that it looks rather professional in the end—with browned, crispy skin and juicy meat. If you need a surge of confidence in the kitchen, try out this recipe. It will make you feel like you’re a pro.