Ooooh, the holiday season does bring out the cranky in some people, doesn’t it? When our S. Irene Virbila wrote a blog post the other day about her new favorite roast chicken – from British chef Simon Hopkinson’s “Roast Chicken and Other Stories” – some of the online commentary got a little hot. The issue is one of timing – Hopkinson (and Virbila) call for roasting the chicken for 40 to 60 minutes with the oven first on high heat at 475 degrees, finishing at 375 degrees.
Someone calling himself “wordsmyythe” wrote: “I guarantee if you follow these directions exactly as stated, you'll have raw chicken on the inside.” And that was mild compared to the ironically named “decentdiscourse” who opined, “Where did they find a food writer who believes a whole chicken at 400 degrees will be ready for basting in 15 minutes and ready to eat less than an hour later? How can you even type this into the column for the paper and not realize it doesn’t add up? HELLO COPY EDITORS! Are all of you high on ‘medical’ marijuana? Nobody caught this? Pathetic.”
Whew. That’s a lot of heat for one chicken recipe. But, in fact, high-heat roasting at those temperatures and with that timing is pretty standard. Just taking a quick look at my reference bookshelf, in “Bouchon” Thomas Keller calls for 40 minutes at 475; in the “Zuni Café Cookbook” Judy Rodgers calls for 40 to 50 minutes at 475; and in the “Art of Simple Food” Alice Waters calls for about 1 hour at 400 degrees. In the recipe Virbila cites as her previous favorite, Marcella Hazan’s 20-year-old classic roast chicken stuffed with lemon, the bird is cooked for a total of 55 minutes with the oven set first at 350 and then 400 to finish.