Classic Roast Chicken
1 small chicken about 2 3/4 – 3 1/2 pounds
a few sprigs of thyme, rosemary, or sage, or a combination
1 cup white wine
1 shallot, finely minced
Two days before:
Wash your chicken and dry it very thoroughly inside and out. The drier the chicken – the better the results! Find the lump of fat inside the chicken and remove that. You can either toss it or make rendered chicken fat (aka schmaltz) to use on home-fried potatoes some time later. (It might not be good for you, but it’s UBER tasty!)
With your index and middle finger, make a pocket on each side of the breast. You do this by sliding your fingers between the meat and the skin and gently pushing them apart. Do the same with the thick part of the drumstick also. Shove a sprig of an herb of your choice into these pockets.
Season the chicken liberally with salt. You can also use pepper, but I found my results were tastier with salt. In any case, make sure to season the thicker parts more than the bonier ones (like wings and ends of the drumstick). Sprinkle some salt inside the cavity and drop a little sprig of an herb inside. It does wonders.
Cover the chicken loosely and let sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
The day of:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Choose an oven-proof shallow dish slightly bigger than the chicken. Here’s what I suggest. Get thee a Lodge cast iron pan. With proper care (which isn’t onerous) you can have this last you your whole life. [I have visions of showing my grandchildren the pan I’ve made so many dishes in, that has so much history, but I digress.] My pan is about 10-inches. With it you can make tarte tatin, roast a chicken, make skillet eggs, and so on.
It will help you if, before placing your chicken inside this pan, you heat the pan on the stove (trick from my grandmother) and then place the chicken on top of it. Be sure that the chicken is dry. If a little moisture collects on it from being salted and in the refrigerator, dry those spots. You want a dry chicken, keep remembering that. A chicken, placed atop a hot pan breast side up, will sizzle, upon which you will open your oven (which will be preheated by then) and thrust your chicken inside it.
Roast the chicken for roughly 20 minutes and make sure that it surface begins to brown. Raise the temperature a bit if it doesn’t, but at 450 degrees, you should see something happening. You will also hear a fabulous crackling noise emanating from the oven. This is your sign – the chicken is roasting!
After roasting the bird for 30-35 minutes, open the oven and quickly flip it over. Quickly as not to lose any of the valuable heat in the oven, but not so quickly that you hurt yourself with the sputtering drippings. Just take care to be careful, that’s all.
After 15 minutes, flip the chicken over again and finish it for another 10 minutes or so. You might want to test the chicken, by cutting a fatter portion of the thigh and making sure that the juices are running clear.
Once the chicken is done, remove it from the oven, turn off the heat. Set the chicken on a serving platter, a board, a plate to cool off.
Making the gravy:
Take your roasting pan with all the drippings and set it on top of the stove on medium heat. Add the shallot to it and cook until shallots are turning golden brown. Add th wine, bring to a boil and reduce by half. The process should take exactly the same amount of time as your chicken needs to cool off a bit. Isn’t that just lovely, how it all works out?
Carve and serve the chicken with your white-wine shallot gravy. I guarantee you, there will be no leftovers.