Wolfgang Puck's Pan-Roasted Chicken With Lemon and Whole-Grain Mustard
The Chef Shares His Secret to Making Moist Roast Chicken Every Time
"This is my secret for success with a small roast chicken. Its skin will be mahogany brown and crackling, while all of its meat, white and dark alike, will be moist and flavorful. The chicken's anatomy, with the tender, low-fat breast meat so prominently exposed to the oven's dry heat, makes it difficult to perfect oven-roasted chicken, as it's easy to overcook the light meat.
"Flattening the chicken by removing the backbone – butchers call this "butterflying" – is an easy and convenient way to get around the problem. Butterflying changes the anatomy of the chicken so that it cooks more evenly.
"If you have a service-oriented butcher, he will know what you mean when you ask him to butterfly the bird (if he doesn't, ask him to cut out the backbone and flatten it while keeping it intact). If you always buy your chicken at the supermarket where there seems to be no butcher in sight, it's easy to do it yourself. All you need is a pair of poultry shears." -- Wolfgang Puck
Recipe courtesy Wolfgang Puck, "Wolfgang Puck Makes it Easy" Rutledge Hill Press, 2004
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. From the neck opening, gently ease your fingertips between the skin and the meat to loosen the skin all over the breast, taking care not to tear the skin.
Insert the parsley sprig, basil leaves, or rosemary sprig under the skin.
Season the chicken generously on all sides with salt and pepper.
Heat an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold the chicken over high heat.
Add the olive oil and swirl it in the skillet.
As soon as you begin to see slight wisps of smoke, carefully place the chicken skin side down in the skillet.
Sear the chicken, undisturbed, while reducing the heat little by little to medium, until its skin has turned golden brown and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. With tongs, carefully turn the chicken skin side up.
Put the skillet with the chicken into the preheated oven and cook until the chicken is deep golden brown and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh meat is pierced with a thin skewer, 10 to 15 minutes more depending on its size.
When the chicken is done, remove it from the skillet with tongs and transfer it to a cutting board.
Pour off all but a thin glaze of fat from the skillet.
Return the skillet to high heat, add the chicken stock and the lemon juice, stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits, and boil the liquid until it has reduced by half its volume, 3 to 4 minutes.
Turn down the heat, add the mustard, and, stirring briskly with a wire whisk, add the remaining butter a piece at a time, to make a creamy sauce. Make sure each piece has been incorporated completely before adding the next.
Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and stir in half of the parsley or basil.
To serve, spoon the sauce into the centers of two to four heated serving plates.
With a large, sharp knife, cut the chicken into two halves or four equal pieces.
Place the chicken on the plates, sprinkle with the remaining parsley or basil, and serve.
If making this for two people, using a small chicken, halve the quantities of ingredients in the sauce (the chicken stock, lemon juice and butter).
You can butterfly the chicken yourself if you don't have a butcher who will do it. It's easy with poultry shears. Working slowly and deliberately, use poultry shears to cut along each side of the backbone from neck to tail, and remove it. Turn the bird breast-up, spread it open and flatten it with a firm blow from the heel of your hand.