an ode to roast chicken

Oh, taste memory. 

Most of my roast chicken roads lead to an ex boyfriend. No one eats chicken like him. Or me for that matter.
Unlike most twosomes, our Friday nights were usually spent silently fighting over the neck and tail bone, after knowingly sizing each other up before taking the thigh or the wing.
This guy cleans breast bones with his teeth like nothing I've seen. Like a savage. Like i do.

I'd say our chicken eating capabilities contributed to keeping us together for some time.  It was a weekly ritual that was rarely interrupted. And when it finally was, I knew our love story was coming to an end.

My ex contributed to the weekly meal with a Challah of his choosing, wine, and candles. The first chicken I ever roasted for him was stuffed with black truffles, served with a shaved vegetable salad, sauteed brussels sprouts and hen of the woods mushrooms. 
We lit the candles, I chugged half a glass of red wine, and waited 3 bites and 7 minutes before asking him if I was his girlfriend. He nervously answered, "I guess so," and then went after the bird.

 inaugural roast black truffle chicken

inaugural roast black truffle chicken

A roast chicken is intimate.
It's eat w your hands kind of aggressive, savagely sexual lick-your-fingers-clean kind of intense. It's carnal. And carnivorous. And simultaneously, it is communal. And familial. To me, it symbolizes a gathering.

If the involved eaters are concerned with their territory (like my savage brothers), chicken eating can also be competitive.

How you eat a chicken is telling. Dark meat or light? Roasted or fried? Wing or thigh? Breast man? Brined or natural? Organic? Air chilled?

My original roast chicken taste memory led to my mom. When I was growing up, she prepared chickens regularly; simply roasted, standing, so that the fat could drip to the base and the chicken would get extra crispy. Open Pit BBQ Sauce was her secret marinade. Try it. Trust me. The spice bakes out and the salt penetrates the meat just enough. Roast at 350 degrees. Rest and serve with baked potatoes, mixed green salad and sauteed broccoli. Dessert should follow.

These days, I like my roast chickens even simpler. Salt, pepper, stuffed cavity with herbs, lemon, an onion and maybe a few garlic cloves. Roast on super high heat for half time, lower to finish. Remove and rest. Inspired by Thomas Keller's famed recipe.

If you don't have time or interest in touching raw chicken, but still want to get carnal and messy with friends or loved ones, check out my recommendations for the best rotisserie chickens New York City has to offer below. Let it be fun.

Best Rotisserie Chickens TO GO

1.     Dean & Deluca – enough salt, enough crisp, and just enough golden brown skin. It is easy to hate on Dean & his buddy Deluca, but don’t. They do what they do well. And they charge a premium for it. But the chicken is different. And you can buy just a half if you wish, for like $7, and can feed 4. Just avoid their seafood + meat in their Soho location. Not enough turnover.

2.     Papa Poule – smothered in herbs de provence and cooked to perfection, these chickens are yummy and ready to eat. The meat is tender and not over salted and the taste is Provencal, rubbed with Herbs de Provence. It is fragrant. Take it to go with their kale salad and signature sauces specifically their house curry.

3. Gourmet Garage - there is something about GG that is just welcoming. Maybe it is their snack selection, happy staff or forever availability of fresh artichokes...Either way, I'm a fan. Their chicken is particularly good and reliable. But only if you get it fresh out of the roaster. Avoid the ones in the glass case that look like they have been tanning for too long.

4.     Ready to Eat – a really good West Village bird. Simple + cheap. Well roasted, well rested and yup, ready to eat.

5.     Citarella – I don’t like this chicken. And only included it to say so. Because everyone says it’s the best roast chicken and you know what? It’s the worst. Its small and dried out and sad. It is a sad Citarella chicken. Even if its just 8$...spend your 8$ on a happier chicken elsewhere.