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Roast Chicken Slapdown -- Bouchon v. Zuni

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Roast Chicken Slapdown -- Bouchon v. Zuni

queue | May 15, 2006 07:09 PM

Last night I roasted two chickens according to the Bouchon recipe, which is a small chicken (2.5 pounds), wet brined for 6 hours, then roasted breast side up for 40 min. at 475. No turning or flipping. I'd been wanting to try this roast chicken method for a while.

The brine involved salt, sugar, honey, and lots of herbs and spices (garlic, lemon, rosemary, thyme, parsley, black pepper, and bay leaves). Luckily, I had a lot of fresh herbs needing to be used up. The chickens were free range & organic (not kosher).

The recipe warns that the brine dehydrates the skin, which can lead to burning of the skin. No kidding! After 20 min. I decided to check the state of my chickens, and a good thing I did! The skin was already dark brown on the top (though parts of the chicken hadn't browned at all and the birds still seemed basically raw) - close to burned. I had to cover the chickens for the remainder of the roasting period, and I also turned the heat down to 400. As a result they were in the oven for almost an hour instead of 40 min. For the last five min. I turned the heat down to 350 and uncovered them so that the sides would get some color. I was worried that the skin would char but they actually turned out quite nice, with a dark brown, crispy crackly skin. After taking them out of the oven, I scattered thyme in the fat/juices and then basted with that a couple of times as they rested. The skin was very appealing - really brown and crispy, and the meat was the moistest ever. They were very good chickens.

Overall, I still prefer the Zuni method. 1) Salt in advance is a lot easier than wet brining, and also much less expensive (if you put herbs and such in the brine it can really add up). 2) The Zuni chicken had a little more chew to it, which I personally like. 3) The quick darkening/burning of the Bouchon chicken was kind of stressful - Zuni method was no fuss.

If there is no time to salt in advance, Marcella Hazan's Chicken with Two Lemons, oft discussed on this board, is another favorite method. (I like to roast it on a bed of veggies because for me it nearly always sticks despite Marcella's exhortations to the contrary. And I've only ever had it puff once. But it is still good.)

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