Few dishes are more seductive than a perfectly browned, juicy bird coming out of the oven. Chef Cory Vitiello's recipe is also easy to prepare, especially if you can make time to prep a couple jobs in advance. Because we brine the chicken in this recipe, the finished product will be juicier, more tender and perfectly seasoned.
What you'll need
1 small 2.5 - 3lb air cooled chicken (free-range is best)
2/3 cups sugar
¾ cups kosher salt
half sliced onion
2 bay leaves
peel of one lemon
1 stick of cinnamon
sprig of thyme
1 piece star anise
Bring all ingredients to a boil, allow to cool before submerging the chicken. Let the chicken sit in the cool brine, in the refrigerator, for 12 hours.
Use a mix of firm winter roots, cut to 1.5 inches. This will ensure all of the vegetables cook evenly underneath the chicken.
1 large carrot
2 red skinned potatoes, or fingerling potatoes left whole
1 large turnip
2 stalks celery
6 pearl onions (peeled and left whole)
¼ cup bacon lardons (thick cut bacon cut in 1 inch pieces)
1 tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper
Prepare the Bird
After the chicken has spent 12 hours plumping up in the brine, remove it and pat dry with paper towel. Gently use you fingers to form a space under the skin, above the breasts and stick a couple pads of butter in there - this will keep it extra juicy and help with the browning. Because we brined the chicken, there is no need to season it further. With a length of cotton string, tie the legs together tightly so the breast meat tightens up. This ensures even cooking. Bring the string around the wings and tie a knot.
Toss the vegetables, oil, bacon, salt and pepper together and place in an even layer in a baking dish. Because we are using the natural juices from the chicken to baste the vegetables, we don't need to add much fat to them at all. Place the chicken over the vegetables and into a preheated 400 degree oven.
This will take somewhere between 45 minutes and 1 hour to cook depending on the bird size. We're trying to achieve a perfectly browned crust - there are a couple of things we can do to ensure that: every 15 minutes, give the chicken a quick rub with a pad of butter and rotate the pan in the oven. Also, it is a good idea to give the vegetables a toss once or twice throughout the cooking to ensure they're cooking evenly. If you notice the vegetables are done before the chicken is cooked, just lift the chicken onto a different pan and pull the veg out.
To check the chicken simply pierce the thigh with a knife. If the meat is the slightest bit pink at the bone and juices run clear, you're good. Do not overcook. There's nothing sexy about eating dry chicken. At this point, the bird needs to rest before we can serve it. Place a sheet of foil over the chicken and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes. This allows all of those juices to redistribute themselves into the meat.
If you want to make a really quick pan-sauce with the vegetables, it's easy. Grab half a glass of whatever wine you're drinking with dinner and add it to the pan of veggies over medium-high heat. llow to reduce for just a moment, add ½ cup chicken broth, chopped parsley and thyme and 1 tablespoon of butter. Swirl the butter around and slightly reduce the sauce until it's glossy and coats all of the vegetables. Season with salt to your tastes.
Back to the chicken: remove the foil and cut the string from the bird. Serve on a platter over the vegetables or carve and serve individual portions.