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Roasted Chicken Goodness

Roasted Chicken Goodness

Roasted chicken goodness at its best.

Lindsey Nair | The Roanoke Times, Va.

A raw, whole chicken is the cook’s equivalent of a blank canvas.

It is clean, pure and ready to absorb whatever flavors are on the chef’s palette that day, whether they be salty rubs, smoky spices, sweet glazes or good, old-fashioned barbecue sauce.

But I would argue that before any artist can create a masterpiece, he or she must be capable of producing a basic sketch. In the world of poultry, the sketch is synonymous with a basic roasted bird, unadulterated by overpowering ingredients.

Like a sketch, though, a simple roasted chicken can be done so many different ways. Of the dozen or more chefs and home cooks I talked to, no two use the same recipe to turn out juicy meat and golden brown skin.

Some grease the inside, some the outside. Some stuff ingredients under the skin, some stuff the cavity. Some use a roasting rack, some go flat on the pan. Some roast it breast up, some down; some turn it all around.

At the risk of inducing shudders, I’ll admit how I cooked a whole chicken as a young, green college grad: I plopped that baby down

in the slow cooker, tossed in some potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, salt and pepper, poured water over the top and let it go.

This method is great if the goal is soup or chicken stock, but nobody wants to see that pale, rubbery critter splayed out on a serving platter.

Fast forward to a recent Sunday, when I stood in the kitchen gazing down at a lovely raw chicken purchased from Angie LeNoir and Patricia Whitt of the Blue Ridge Poultry Co-op.

Even though this privileged bird spent its life wandering in and out of the coop and grazing on open pasture, I still wanted to honor it by not screwing it up.

A little real butter, some fresh herbs from the garden and a digital thermometer were my friends in that endeavor. It was truly one of the best roasted chickens I’ve ever tasted, but it was not perfection.

Perfection, as any good cook knows, takes practice.