Easter is just around the corner, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to share this recipe with you. I know ham is the traditional go-to centerpiece for an Easter meal, but who says you’ve got to eat ham on Easter? Since I don’t even like ham that much, I always opt for roasted chicken. The problem with roast chicken is that, while easy to make, it’s also easy to screw up (judging by the number of dry, overcooked and under-seasoned roast chickens I’ve eaten). A roast chicken, when done right, will yield fantastic results.
Instead of being brined, this chicken is actually air dried in the refrigerator. That may seem counterintuitive, but I promise you there’s a good reason for it. This chicken still has the tender, flavorful, juicy meat you’d expect from a brined chicken, but it also has something they lack – a super crispy skin. I typically remove the skin after roasting most chickens, finding it to be somewhat lacking in texture. This one, though, has a crackling skin that is almost irresistible. This is the result of several factors – a salt/baking powder rub, air drying, incisions made in the chicken to allow the fat to drain and high heat cooking. With just a little time and effort, you end up with a roast chicken that’s elegant and impressive. This would be the perfect main dish for Easter or any spring meal.
Place chicken breast side down on a cutting board. Using a the tip of a sharp knife, cut four 1-inch incisions along the back of the chicken. Use your fingers to gently loosen the skin covering the breast and thighs. Use a metal skewer to poke 15-20 holes in the fat deposits on top of the breast and thighs. Tuck wings behind back.
Combine the salt, baking powder and pepper in a small bowl. Pat chicken to dry with paper towels, then sprinkle evenly with the salt mixture. Using both hands, rub the mixture all over the chicken. Place breast side up in a V-rack set inside a roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, for 12-24 hours.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat to 450º. Using a paring knife, poke 20 holes in a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to cover the V-rack. Remove chicken and loosely place foil in V-rack. Place the chicken, breast side down, into the foil covered V-rack. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and rotate the chicken breast side up. I’ve found the easiest (and least messy) way to do this is to use two wooden spoons. Insert the handle of one into the cavity of the chicken and use the other spoon at the opposite end to help turn the chicken. Continue roasting until the breast reaches 135º, 15-25 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 500º. Continue roasting until the skin is golden and crisp, 10-20 additional minutes. The breast should register 160º and the thighs 175º. Transfer chicken to a cutting board or serving platter and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.