MEET THE SOUS CHEF
MICHAEL PETRES, EXECUTIVE CHEF, BRASSERIE BY NICHE
“I know it sounds boring,” apologizes Michael Petres, executive chef at St. Louis’ Brasserie by Niche, “but I eat roast chicken a couple of times a week.”
Brined, trussed and cooked at high heat, the bird provides a foundation for days' worth of dinners, and ensures that Petres always has a supply of chicken stock in the freezer. Nominally gussied up with fresh herbs and a smear of softened butter on the skin, if this is what an uninteresting dinner looks like, we’ve never been so happy to be bored.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
"It's nice to do things on my day off that take my mind off the kitchen," says Petres, whose hobbies include woodworking ("I don't want to give the impression that I'm good," he says, "though I did make a bookshelf") and riding his bike. When the weather is nice, he commutes the five miles to work on two wheels, a path that takes him through St. Louis' Forest Park.
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
Juicy Meat and Crisp Skin
Petres’ method for a crisp-skinned, juicy roast chicken: He brines the bird, rubs the skin with butter and roasts it at high heat. If he has time, he adds one step: He removes the chicken from the brine and lets it stand, uncovered, in the refrigerator for several hours to dry the skin before cooking. After the bird is roasted, he lets it stand for 15 minutes before carving so the juices don’t run out.
Butter & Herbs
The brine seasons the meat of the chicken to the bone, so the only additional seasoning needed is fresh herbs. He shoves chopped rosemary under the skin of the breast, though you could substitute thyme or parsley, then rubs some butter on the skin before cooking the chicken so the bird bastes as it cooks.
Cool water, 16 cups
Kosher salt, 1½ cups plus 2 teaspoons, plus extra if needed
Granulated sugar, 1 cup
Whole chicken, 4- to 5-pound roaster
Unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons cold plus 4 tablespoons at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper, 1½ teaspoons
Fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs
Garlic, 2 cloves (smashed)
Chicken broth or stock, 1 cup
Lemon, 1 (halved)
Thick country bread, 4 slices
Large container (big enough to brine the chicken)
Heavy plate or bowl
Large soup spoon
1. Brine the chicken: In a very large bowl, container or pot, whisk vigorously until you've dissolved the:
- Cool water
- 1½ cups kosher salt
- Granulated sugar
- Whole chicken
Set a medium plate on top of the chicken to keep it submerged. Refrigerate the chicken for 4 hours, then remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cool water and use paper towels to pat dry.
2. Truss the chicken: Preheat the oven to 450°. Set the chicken on a cutting board. Tuck the wingtips behind the backbone. Place a 3-foot-long piece of twine under the chicken and bring the twine up and around the neck, crossing the two ends at the base of the cavity, pulling the ends tight and tying a knot. Bring each end of the twine under each leg, wrap it around the narrowest part of each drumstick, and pull the drumsticks together so they cross. Bring the twine back under the thighs and crisscross under the back. Bringing the twine back up around the neck, pull tight, knot the twine and trim the ends.
3. Roast the chicken: Place the chicken in the deep skillet and rub it all over with the:
- 2 tablespoons room-temperature unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully tip the skillet to accumulate the fat in the pan. Use the soup spoon to baste the chicken with the fat. Return to the oven, loosely covering the chicken with a sheet of aluminum foil if the skin gets too dark, for 20 minutes, then remove the chicken and baste again. To the skillet, add the:
- Rosemary sprigs
- Smashed garlic cloves
Continue to cook the chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh near the thigh joint reads 155° and the juices at the thigh joint run clear, about 15 to 20 minutes more. If at any time during roasting the chicken skin is getting too dark, loosely tent with foil. Remove the chicken from the oven and baste one more time with fat from the skillet. Use tongs to stand the chicken upright so that any accumulated juices in the cavity drip into the pan, then place the chicken on a cutting board to rest for 15 minutes.
4. Make the pan sauce: While the chicken rests, set the skillet over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Carefully pour off the fat into a heat-safe bowl, keeping the rosemary, garlic and browned bits in the skillet (set the fat aside to cool, then discard). Add the:
- Chicken broth
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the chicken broth to a boil, using the wooden spoon to stir and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the broth is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and use the whisk to incorporate the:
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Remove the pan from the heat and add a squeeze of:
- Lemon juice from a lemon half
- More salt if needed
5. Toast the bread: Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the broiler to high. On a rimmed baking sheet, add the:
- Country bread slices
Use a butter knife to spread the top side of each slice with the remaining:
- 2 tablespoons room-temperature unsalted butter
Place the baking sheet on the upper rack and broil until the toast is browned and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes (watch the toast closely, as broiler intensities vary). Remove from the oven and place the buttered and toasted bread slices on the bottom of a serving platter.
6. Carve the chicken by separating the legs from the cavity and slicing through the thigh joint. Slice through the joint between the thigh and the drumstick and place both pieces of chicken on a platter. Repeat with the other leg. Slice around the wing joint where the wing attaches to the breast to separate the wing, and place it on the platter. Repeat with the other wing. Place the knife on one side of the breast plate and slice down, then run the knife along the ribs to remove a breast from the cavity. Slice the breast crosswise into thin pieces. Repeat with the other breast. Arrange the carved chicken over the toast and drizzle with the pan sauce. Serve.