It emerges blistered and tender from their glowing hearth and then placed atop a tangle of scrappy bread salad that soaks up the dripping juices as it makes its way to your table. I have never attempted to make it at home even though I have had the cookbook for years; but frustrated at my frequent failed attempts to make a decent roast chicken with the free range Hutterite birds I’ve been buying, I decided to give it a try. It did lack that distinctive smokey flavor but it was still delicious and I think will be my go to method for roasting smaller birds from now on.
The recipe doesn’t call for any extra fat, you don’t rub the chicken with oil or butter before roasting which I found dubious but turns out the chicken’s own fat is more than sufficient. Also you roast the chicken at super high heat—the entire time. Although Chef Judy Rodgers says you must use a small (2 3/4- 3 1/2 pound) bird to successfully roast a chicken this way, mine was more like 4 1/4 pounds and worked great. She claims bigger birds don’t have enough skin (or fat) for the amount of meat and will be too dry to be cooked at such a high heat, so I would just say try to find the smallest one you can.
The absolute best thing about this method is you do the entire thing in an oven-safe frying pan. This is genius on many levels. It is way easier to clean up than a bulky roasting pan, and lighter and less cumbersome to move around the kitchen with a chicken in it. But mainly you can make a fantastic pan sauce in a pan that actually fits on a burner and doesn’t have awkward corners to stir around.
Now I will get to the instructions I didn’t follow. Rodgers says it is essential to salt your chicken at least 24 hours before you cook it. Well, I read that instruction 3 hours before I planned on eating so mine got a 3 hour dry brine (and it was still really good). She also has you place herbs underneath the skin, which I was too lazy to do so I just stuffed some carrot, leek, and herbs in the cavity (and it was still really good). She also has you preheat your pan on the stove top. I decided to put my pan in the oven while it was heating, just to make sure it was really blazing hot and boy that worked. If enthusiastic popping and sizzling frightens you, just go ahead and heat your pan over medium heat on the stove. But don’t be too wimpy, the pan needs to be pretty hot so the chicken doesn’t stick.