A quality, properly roasted chicken can be as good or better than any other protein in the world. I say this without reservation, and I will happily argue the point for far longer than is reasonable. The crispy skin, succulent meat, and the aroma of the herbs and spices all scream to the deepest parts of my being. I’m not talking about some plastic-shelled, mass-cooked, soggy monstrosity picked up from a big box store. I concede that those can still taste okay and definitely serve a purpose, but they aren’t the kind of food you pair with a nice wine and in which you taste the love and the care. That being said, take your copy of Escoffier and chuck it out the damn window.  There is no one right way to do anything.*

My preferred method is simple, adaptable, and has only a few specific requirements: use of quality meat, and that it be brined, trussed, and rested.

Pick up a free range, heritage breed bird from a farmer’s market; it will be smaller and more expensive than the caged glob of flavorless breast meat that you can get for eighty cents a pound, but the meat will be darker, more flavorful, and tighter grained. I’m also of the opinion that the higher animal welfare standards alone warrant the extra expense. While you are at the farmers market, grab garlic, onions, lemons, and your choice of herbs (I like to throw a sprig of mint in with the more traditional ones). Next, wash your bird and brine it in the fridge in your choice of salty, spiced solution for a good while. Dry the chicken and stuff it with herbs, garlic, onions, lemons, or whatever you want in there before you truss it. After trussing, I like to brush the dry chicken with a very small amount of olive oil and then rub it with some salt and crushed black pepper. I resisted brining and trussing for a long time, but it is definitely worth the time involved. After those steps, however, things get complicated.

Cooking temperatures and times are widely disputed and depend on your chicken, your oven, the environment, etc. Some swear you should alter the temperature at different points in the cooking process to achieve different effects, and some swear you should stick the chicken in the oven and leave it alone. I tend more toward the latter, but I could be wrong- try it for yourself. However you cook it, let the bird rest when it comes out of the oven. This is a good time to deglaze the roasting pan and make a sauce to serve with the white meat or side dishes. After it rests all that remains is to carve, enjoy, critique, and repeat.

*I’m kidding, of course. Escoffier is a great resource and no book should be treated so harshly.