Sunday, January 1, 2012

24 Roast Chickens: 2011 in Review

Happy New Year, interwebs! Per tradition, my mom prepared a beautiful, traditional Korean New Year's feast, complete with Korean rice cake soup and braised short ribs packaged in a kabocha squash. But this isn't a post about delicious Korean food. It's a post about chickens. 24 chickens. Roasted. And believe you me, 24 is no poultry number.

The end of this project is bittersweet. No more than a year ago, I had never even touched a raw, whole chicken before. And before I knew it, this project truly evolved from one of curiosity to one of obsession. Roasting a chicken was no longer just a pursuit to learn a basic technique. Roasting a chicken became an investigation into the lives of famous chefs, the flavors of different cultures, and ultimately, the ubiquity and versatility of this tradition.

Chefs famous for their use of modern cuisine tipped their hats to simpler and more classic flavors. Authorities on French and Italian cuisine proved why they are authorities. Recipes from blogs I had never seen before found their way into my oven. And everyone claimed they had the best technique for the perfect, ultimate roast chicken.

Everyone seems to have their own opinions on which roast chicken recipe is the best. But hopefully, if anything, this project will help out those who are a little lost as to where to start in that ocean of recipes available on the Internet. And for those who are jaded chicken roasters, maybe this project will spark some inspiration to try something new.

So as promised, here's my contribution to the yearly deluge of "Best of [insert year]" lists.

24. Emeril Lagasse's Perfect Roast Chicken - Surprisingly light, but the breast was a little bit dry and bland. The garlic rosemary butter was killer.

23. Jacques Pépin's Quick Roasted Chicken - The sauce was great and tangy, but the cooking method dried up the breast meat a lot. But ohh, the sauce.

22. America's Test Kitchen's Roast Chicken - Very moist and evenly cooked, but too briny at points. The mustard butter with thyme added a nice kick and the sweet potatoes were pretty irresistible.

21. Thomas Keller's "My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken" - A little dried up, but loved the simple flavors and combination with the dijon mustard.

20. Jamie Oliver's Perfect Roast Chicken - Juicy, flavorful, and classic. Maybe just wasn't as exciting because of the standard-ness of it. Great cooked celery and carrots though.

19. Jerry Traunfeld's Bay Laurel Roasted Chicken - Really juicy meat with a strong portion of garlic and an overwhelmingly noticeable presence of bay leaf at times. Jus was unnecessary.

18.Tyler Florence's Ultimate Roast Chicken - Two words: Bacon blanket. Crispy skin, juicy meat, and tons of herbal flavor. Really heavy, and naturally, really fatty.

17. Eric Ripert's Roasted Chicken with Za'atar Stuffing - A little on the raw side, but the flavor profile was great. Next time, put twice the amount of za'atar in the stuffing, or cover the actual chicken with za'atar.

16. Rasa Malaysia's Szechuan Roasted Chicken - A lovable marinade spiked with pepper and some slight sweetness with a refreshing apple-based side salad. Some Szechuan spice would've been nice.

15. Christopher Walken's Chicken with Pears - So juicy and simple. Pearfectly delicious pears. You can't hate on Christopher Walken.

14. Thai-Marinated Roast Chicken - Not really fair because I feel like I'm voting for myself. In any case, a serious flavor bomb, straight from Bangkok.

13. The Kitchn's Spatchcocked Ricotta Chicken - Turbo filling, comforting ricotta, tons of delicious basil, and incredibly juicy for a butterflied chicken.

12. Grant Achatz's Roasted Chicken with Garlic-Thyme Butter - Tyler Florence "light." Very juicy and crispy skin. Butter with garlic and thyme is always a plus.

11. Rozanne Gold's "Opinionated Way to Roast a Chicken" - Incredibly easy, surprisingly moist, addictive chive butter sauce, but slightly dry at parts. Still, though. It was the most surprising.

10. Christian Domschitz's Salt-Roasted Chicken - Salt and chicken, at their best. Outrageously juicy. And naked.

9. delicious. Magazine's Bengali-Spiced Squash with Ginger Roast Chicken - The second-best side that the 24 had to offer. Also, incredibly juicy and tangy. Next time, more ginger in and on everything.

8. Mindy Fox's Peruvian Roast Chicken - Super flavorful and rich. Packed with three flavors I love: cumin, garlic, and paprika.

7. Ludo Lefebvre's "Recipe by Photo" Roast Chicken - Skin to die for and absurdly juicy meat with a citrusy tang. The butter is a bit heavy in all the right ways.

6. Tom Colicchio's Roasted Chicken - Awesomely juicy, subtle and aromatic, and drew a lot from the simple salt and pepper seasoning. Some of the crispiest chicken out there. The peanut oil was a serious plus.

5. Julia Child's "My Favorite Roast Chicken" - Delicious lemony flavor with juicy meat and addictive cooked, yet crunchy, carrots and celery. No wonder she's so famous.

4. Judy Rodgers' Zuni Roast Chicken - Outrageous skin and the best side the 24 had to offer. I can still taste yesterday's tangy and acidic bread salad.

3. Fabio Viviani's Roasted Chicken - Tucked sage and olive oil made for a guiltless chicken, packed with flavor. Classic and delicious.

2. Tony Maws' Whole Roast Chicken - Cooked to perfection from skin to rib. One of the main reasons why this isn't number one is because it's not the easiest or most accessible recipe of the lot.

1. Marcella Hazan's Roast Chicken with Lemons - Beautifully moist, aromatic, simple, perfect. Every time. Oh come on, as if you didn't see this one coming.

And with that, the 24 Roast Chicken project comes to a close. Though I'll miss this project a lot, let the roast chicken detox begin. Thanks to everyone who helped me navigate and eat my way through this project.

A new "24" project for 2012 is currently in the works. Lots of great suggestions, so keep them coming.

In the meantime, happy 2012!


  1. You've become such a pro! I loved reading about each experiment. I would like to say I'd try it out for myself, but... I'll just let you do your magic, and I'll eat. :) Happy 2012!

  2. Haha, thanks! I'll definitely have to roast a chicken for you some time, maybe as a belated birthday present? Happy 2012 to you too!

  3. Congratulations!! You really made it on time:). I feel honored being served some of your project and I enjoyed all. I would like to say that I was very lucky to have a chance to taste your #1 choice, Marcella Hazan's. Besides Hazan's, my favorite one was Squash w/ ginger roast chicken.
    Well done^^"

  4. As a big fan of roast chickens, I really enjoyed this list. Can't wait to make some of them! :)

  5. Thanks for checking it out! Let me know how they go.

  6. um was that your mom that commented above? if so, AMAZING.


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