This is the question I get asked the most as a Chef.
The answer is simple: Roasted Chicken.
However, the reason is not so simple. This is the dish that has been associated with most if not all of the most positive food memories that I have. Roasted chicken has always been a part of my life.
When I was a child this was the dish that I most associated with visiting my Granny and Grampa, my Dad’s parents, in England. Every summer from before I could remember till I turned 16 my cousin and I, and in the later years my brother, would spend 2-3 weeks with our grandparents in East Sussex, in southern England. Every year, 3 or 4 of the nights we were there, our Granny would make Roasted Chicken. I still remember this dish vividly. She always served it with boiled waxy potatoes, green beans, jus, pulman loaf and Colman’s Mustard. I would drown the chicken in jus and eat every bite with the smallest amount of mustard, by the end of the meal I could smell everything. I would leave the jus until the end and then I would plop 1 slice of bread on the plate and watch the juices get absorbed making one of the best bites of food I have ever eaten. I can still remember how it tastes almost 20 years later.
Another version of Roasted Chicken that is seared into my brain, like a brand on a cow, is my mothers version. My mom was and is a great cook! When I was a kid she would cook for us 4-5 nights a week, sometimes more. She had 10 dishes that she rotated through, depending on the time of year, but the one constant that would pop up all year was her roasted chicken. It was not always a whole bird, sometimes it was only the breast but it was always skin on. I remember this because I would always turn on the oven light and sit there and watch the skin just get crispier and crispier as the bird reached its perfect doneness. I remember when I was finally allowed to cut up the bird after it has rested. I watched juices collect in the indents of the cutting board. My mom would then pour the juices in a special measuring cup that separated the fat from the jus so only the prime liquid was poured back over the chicken.
When I was older, starting my third year at UVa, I got an apartment with 3 friends that had a full kitchen. This was my first time with my own kitchen because prior to that year, between boarding school and 2 years of college, I had had 6 years of communal living without cooking options. As soon as we moved in I was itching to cook something. So I went to the store and bought a chicken. I had no idea how to actually cook it so I called my mom to get her recipe. I followed it to the t but what I did not know was the birds my mom used were much smaller then the one I was cooking. When I pulled it out of the oven everything looked great and I let it rest. But when I cut into it I was like “shit”; I had under cooked it. So I threw it back in the oven and finished it but it wasn’t perfect so I was bummed. I kept trying and after about my 4th chicken I finally got it right. It was one of those personal little victories that sticks with you forever.
Since then Roasted Chicken has been my favorite dish to cook. The feeling I get now that I get to cook it for my own little ones and my beautiful wife is one of the best in the world.
This dish holds such a special place in my heart that I can only hope to make that kind of impression on the people I cook it for. Everything stressful in my like disappears when I am eating roasted chicken. It is my happy place.
I keep it simple with my chicken. It is only Chicken, Salt and Pepper. I can do it this way because I have the privilege of using the best chicken I have ever had in terms of pure chicken flavor. We get all of our birds from Timbercreek Farm.
When we were opening Brookville I was introduced to TCO by a mutual friend. I went out to the farm to see what they had going on, being a farm boy myself this was ver exciting. After the visit I was sent home with some samples. I cooked them up that night and from that point I was hooked and I won’t use birds from anywhere else. I have even gone to the farm to help with the processing. I felt it was my responsibility as a Chef to do that and not every time I cook one of TCO’s Chickens I have a very deep respect for the bird itself, as well as, all the work that went into growing such a perfect bird.
Here is my recipe.
1 Chicken (3.5 lb is my favorite size)
Salt and Pepper to taste.
1) Pre-heat oven to 350F
2) Pull the chicken 30min-1hr before you want to stars cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
3) Heavily season the cavity of the bird with the salt and pepper.
4) At this point I like to TRUSS my chicken, which is a technique where to tie the chicken up with butchers twine. You don’t have to do this my it helps with a more even cooking of the bird.
5) After I have trussed the bird I put it on a sheet tray with a rack and then season the skin with only salt.
6) I put the bird in the oven for an hour and then start checkin it. I use a thermometer stuck into the leg to tell me if the bird is done. I am looking for a temperature of 160. If its not at 160 I put it back in the oven and check it every 10 minutes until it hits the desired temp. (I pull the bird at 160 because as it rests it will continue to cook and hit the desired/safe eating temp of 165.
7) After I pull the bird I let it rest in a warm place for at least 20 minutes.
8) When it is time to butcher the bird, I am the only one who is allowed to do it because of the special treat that is left after you butcher it. I take off the legs firs and then separate them into thigh and drumstick. Then I take off the Wings. Next comes the breasts and those get sliced in half. So when butchered I have 10 pieces of roasted chicken. The special treat that I just alluded to is the oyster and I eat that immediately. I let y’all look up what it is because I am selfish and want to keep it for myself so I don’t want to give too much away.
My favorite sided are, surprise surprise, Boiled Potatoes, Green Beans, Bread and Colman’s Mustard. However, the most important part of this dish is that you must surround yourself with loved ones to enjoy with.
That is why Roasted Chicken is my favorite dish to cook.