There are a few recipes that really test the ability of a good cook.
Some say it is the soufflé, Thomas Keller said it is the egg, but Julia Child said it was the roasted chicken.
If you have ever had a good roasted chicken, then you know it is a thing of great beauty and is absolutely delicious.
There is, however, one problem, not all chickens are the same.
Most of the readily available are raised in mass and those can't compare with free-range chickens, which have a yellow hue, while mass-produced chickens are white and less flavorful.
Are these healthy birds readily available? Sorry to say, no. But try to buy a free-range, antibiotic-free bird if you can.
JULIA CHILD'S ROASTED CHICKEN
This recipe is labor intensive, but it is what is required to achieve the level of excellence Julia Child insisted upon.
5-7 pound chicken
1 tablespoon room temperature butter
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped onion
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub the soft butter all over the chicken, roast breast up in a shallow roasting pan and place in preheated oven. After 10 minutes turn the chicken on its side, at 20 minutes baste the chicken with the pan drippings and turn on other side, at 30 minutes lower the temperature to 350 degrees and baste again. At 40 minutes baste again. At 50 minutes sprinkle lightly with salt, turn on other side and add vegetables. After 60 minutes baste. At 70 minutes turn breast side up, salt and baste. From now until the chicken is done baste twice again. Let stand 10-15 minutes before carving.
An often asked question is when is a chicken done? Here is the simple answer; the thigh will be tender and when pierced the juice will run clear and the legs move.
A LESS-DEMANDING ROASTED CHICKEN
1 whole fryer chicken
1/2 clove garlic
3-4 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Small bunch fresh thyme
Wash and dry the bird, then allow it to approach room temperature. Never put a cold chicken into a hot oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Smash the garlic and place it, along with the thyme, in the cavity of the bird. Smear the skin of the bird with the
butter. Place on a shallow baking pan and roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and roast for 45 more minutes. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
PAN SAUCE FOR ROASTED CHICKEN
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and set aside to rest. Make sure to tilt the chicken and drain all the juice from inside the bird. Place the pan on top of the stove and turn on the burner it is sitting on to medium high. Add the wine and, using a metal spatula, stir and remove the leftover bits in the pan. Now add the butter, as it melts it will thicken the sauce. Now taste and season as necessary. Strain to remove solids and place in a sauce boat and serve warm.
MUSHROOM SAUCE FOR ROASTED CHICKEN
If you are fortunate and can score some wild mushrooms, this sauce will be divine. The best would be morels, but they are extremely pricey.
1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1 pound mushrooms
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Drain off the oil from roasting the chicken, but save the brown drippings. In a heavy sauce pan sauté the onion in the drippings for 2 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they start to give off their liquid. Add the sherry vinegar and flour, stirring to mix well. Whisk in the stock, add the rosemary, and cream and simmer until it thickens. Serve the sauce in a sauce boat, or drizzled over the chicken after it has been cut into pieces.
Julian Brunt, who comes from a family with deep Southern roots, writes the Coast Cooking column that appears in Wednesday's Sun Herald and for a blog at sunherald.com. He is a food writer and photographer.