While Ted Allen’s still on the fence about what he’ll be speaking about at the Fantastic Food Fest at the Fairgrounds (he'll be there the weekend of Jan. 16-17), one topic did come to mind: the proper way to roast a chicken. Despite the nature of Chopped
, Allen insists he’s a slow-food kind of guy, and he’s not a fan of dousing poultry in saltwater. To wit:
One thing I might talk about in Indy is a technique that I’ve been doing for the past couple years. … I’ve completely given up brining. I don’t like submerging meat in water. I really want crispy skin on a chicken or a turkey, and I want carmelization on the outside and water is the enemy of browning. It’s awkward and messy and has sanitation issues.
RELATED: Our Q&A with Allen
There’s a technique I got from a chef … Judy Rodgers — an old French technique where you salt the chicken or any other cut of meat several days ahead of time. With a chicken you can do it one or two days ahead, with a turkey, you want to do it three or four. It draws the moisture out of the meat to the outside, to the skin. Through osmosis it eventually returns and the moisture goes back into the meat and it takes salt with it. Even something as thick as a turkey breast can be salted all the way down to the bone. It absolutely works, and I like what it does to the texture of the turkey and chicken as well. The meat itself is juicy, it’s got a nice firmness, it doesn’t get that saw-dusty character that the breast meat gets if you overcook it.
Rodger’s aforementioned recipe, perfected at San Francisco’s Zuni Café, is simple, according to the folks at foodandwine.com. To paraphrase: take a small free-range bird — under three pounds — and stuff four sprigs of thyme and four peeled, crushed garlic cloves under the skin. Sprinkle two teaspoons of fine sea salt all over the bird and season with pepper, then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. After that you’ll preheat an oven to 500 degrees, heat up a cast-iron skillet in that oven for five minutes, and then roast breast side up for 30 minutes, followed by a flip and 15 more minutes until the juices off the thigh are clear. Rest for ten, then carve.