Friday, December 30, 2011

Christian Domschitz's Salt-Roasted Chicken (21/24)

Salt. A pinch here, a dash there, salt plays an essential role in the world of savory cooking. Especially when it comes to roasting a chicken. But this recipe takes salt's role to a whole new level. Sure, I've seen plenty of salt-roasted fish in my day. Always breathtaking upon arrival and deliciously juicy. But a chicken? Salt-roasted? Needless to say, when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to give one of the chicken recipes on my list the boot. And I'm glad I did.

Christian Domschitz, a chef based in Vienna, Austria, begins this surprisingly simple preparation of a roast chicken with seven cups of kosher salt. That's a lot of salt. But then again, that's a lot of chicken to encase in salt.

Next, a dozen egg whites.

Dump the egg whites in with the mound of salt.

Save those golden yolks for a baking project or some heart-stopping omelettes. Or lightly fry them. Or just drink them. I don't care what you do with them, but just don't waste them.

The next step is probably the most satisfying step I've experienced over the course of this project. Mix the salt and eggs with your hands.

The end result should have a strangely addictive sandlike texture. The recipe says the mixing step should take four minutes, but if you're anything like me, take an extra couple minutes to enjoy the therapeutic and nostalgic qualities of this process. Just make sure you don't have any cuts on your hands. And avoid scratching your eyes.

Stuff the marjoram, tarragon, and flat-leaf parsley in the cavity, tuck the wings under the shoulders, and tie the legs to get to the second most satisfying step I've experienced over the course of this project: build a sand castle around the chicken.

Like any good sand castle, form a good foundation.

And then just go crazy.

I'm sure you could probably spend some time smoothing out the lumps, but I kind of liked the salt-mine-like qualities of the lumps.

Especially when the salt hangs from the tail.

Then pop the chicken into the oven until the salt mound has a nice golden brown color. The recipe says about 70 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees, but because I didn't want to pierce the salt crust with a thermometer, I just roasted the chicken until the salt became this color. And the results were absolutely fine. For this four pound chicken, I roasted the chicken for about 80 minutes, because at 70 minutes, the salt crust wasn't looking quite as brown as I thought it should.

After letting the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes, partake in the third most satisfying step I've experienced over the course of this project: use the handle of a carving knife to crack open the salty crust to reveal your spoils.

My friend described this chicken's appearance as naked. And I have to agree. Probably one of the more anti-climactic reveals I've experienced over the course of this project, but don't judge a chicken by its skin.

Judge a chicken by its outrageously juicy and perfectly cooked thighs. And its equally juicy and meaty breasts.

Eating this chicken was like alternating between eating a piece of unseasoned chicken and then placing your tongue on a salt lick. Chicken. Salt lick. Chicken. Salt lick. Sound unappealing? Because it's not. It's amazing. It's addictive. It's downright delicious. Sure, every few bites you might catch a chunk of salt, but it's a salt-roasted chicken. Put it behind you and keep eating.

Every piece of meat was infused with a hint of tarragon, which, like the juiciness of the chicken, was probably the result of locking in the flavors and heat with the salt crust. While I found myself missing the crispy qualities of an exposed roast chicken, the juiciness really made up for it.

And if you're anything like me, you might be tempted to try a few bites of the salt crust. And guess what? It tastes exactly like what you'd expect it to taste like. A bunch of egg whites and a ton of salt. I mean a smack-you-upside-the-head ton of salt. Not recommended.

A simple recipe with amazing results? Looks like we're getting some real competition for the top spots in this project. Stay tuned. Another post to come later today.

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