I’ve wanted to make roasted chicken for a long, long time. It all started a year ago when I watched Season 5 of “The Mind of a Chef,” a brilliant PBS documentary narrated by the late, great Anthony Bourdain.
Season 5 of the series highlights the work of Ludo Lefebvre, a French chef who put down roots in LA and now owns and operates several successful restaurants in the city. I started to watch an episode about roasted chicken on my laptop last year and I stared at my screen, transfixed, as Ludo prepared the bird for the oven. When you’re roasting a chicken, you don’t go off and read a magazine or watch TV, Ludo said in his French accent. “You stay with your bird.”
I was charmed and humbled. A lot of my cooking involves putting something in the oven or on the stove and going off and doing myriad things such as lying on the couch, folding clothes, or staring out the window. If I’m scared something is going to burn, there’s a good chance that I will watch it cook. If not, I leave it alone.
I kept Ludo’s advice in mind when I started my first roasted chicken project yesterday night. I found a great recipe for pomegranate-glazed chicken from Bon Appétit. I’ll just link to it instead of reprinting it below, as web decorum dictates. It seemed to suggest the same thing that Ludo did, which is, pay attention to your bird.
I started by marinating a whole chicken overnight in a zipped bag with whole yogurt, pomegranate molasses, garlic, salt, and honey. I’m not going to lie: Looking at the mixture in a plastic bag and then dunking a chicken into it is a little nausea-inducing. I’d urge you to carry on, though, because you will be rewarded at the end of the process.
The Bon Appétit recipe tells you to rotate the bag with the chicken inside periodically so the marinade is well-distributed. If you’re at work during the day you might not have time to do this, but I’d recommend giving your bird some TLC if you’re around and you can rotate the bag. It will ensure that the marinade is absorbed by most of the chicken. Just make sure that the bag is well sealed so you don’t get the marinade all over your kitchen.
When it comes time to cook the chicken, you spread the bird skin-side up on a baking sheet lined with foil and drizzled with olive oil. Then you rub a pomegranate honey mixture onto the skin. This is way more gratifying and less nausea-inducing than making the marinade. At this point, you should get excited about roasting the chicken.
Make sure you have a shelf at the top rung in your oven. Place the baking sheet on the shelf and leave the chicken to roast for about 30 minutes. DO NOT leave the kitchen. I took Ludo’s advice and stayed with my bird, and it paid off. I was rewarded with pomegranate chicken that was sweet, tender, and succulent. The skin was crispy and the insides practically melted in my mouth. I was overwhelmed by my nascent success.
Some people might think that the bird I cooked is burnt. This is where America’s food sensibility differs from the rest of the world. The chicken I cooked was supposed to be charred on the outside. The blackness makes the skin taste better and gives the chicken an extra level of flavor. Whatever you do, don’t take your bird out of the oven before it reaches this stage. You will regret it.
So yeah. That’s the story of my first roasted chicken experience. It was so enjoyable that I want to make another one soon.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this song. I’ll also leave you with Ludo Lefebvre’s advice to me before I started cooking last night. I think it’s good advice all around.