This is a tasty take on Chef Odermatt’s famous European-style rotisserie chicken, brined using a cheesecloth ball, spices, and white wine. It’s tender, moist, and delicious, and the prep is really not particularly complicated.
- 1 small Smart Chicken (2 3/4 to 3 1/2 pounds)
- 2 each tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, and sage (about 1/2 inch long)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 juniper berries (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 whole lemon
- 1 large cheesecloth and butcher’s twine
Prepare the brine (one day before serving)
Form a ball with cheesecloth about the size of your fist and tie with twine to form a ball. Place the cheesecloth ball in a bowl with 1/2 cup white wine and the liquid from the lemon. Add a sprig of rosemary and juniper berry (if desired and available) to the bowl. Make sure that you turn the ball frequently to evenly coat with liquid.
Season the chicken (one day before serving; give a 3 1/4 to 3 1/2-pound chicken at least 2 days)
Approaching from the edge of the cavity between the leg and body structure, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making two little pockets. Using the tip of your finger, gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Gently shove an herb sprig into each of the four pockets. Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, more heavily on the thick sections than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders.
Remove the cheesecloth ball from the brine, making sure it is damp but not running with brine. Stuff it inside the chicken, making sure it is pressed neatly to the front. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
Prepare your oven and pan (day of serving, total time is 45 minutes to 1 hour)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Choose a shallow, flameproof roasting pan. Preheat the pan over medium heat.
To roast the chicken
Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. Raise the temperature every 15 minutes but do not exceed 410ºF. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25ºF. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over—drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to re-crisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes at 420ºF or until your thermometer reads 165º.
To rotisserie the chicken
Place the chicken on the skewer, making sure that the cheesecloth ball remains near front of the chicken. Start with the temperature at a low level and let the chicken turn until the skin starts to dry up but before the skin begins to caramelize. Gradually increase the heat until the skin is crispy and brown and the chicken has an internal temperature of 165ºF.
Rest the chicken
Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice from inside the chicken into the drippings. Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste—the juices will be extremely flavorful.
Serve the chicken
Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.
Pairing: A Dry Creek Valley or Russian River Valley pinot noir, or a Sonoma chardonnay