Recently, I had dinner at Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto — home to “supposedly” one of the best roast chickens in the city. I say “supposedly” because there are a lot of good chickens to be had in this town — including, ahem, my own.
Needless to say, I was skeptical. I just had to order it to see if it deserved its reputation.
From the first bite, nay from the first whiff, I was a goner. Juicy dribble slopped down my chin. My fingers were sticky and slick from the luscious melted compound butter dotting the surface. The skin itself was thin and crispy, popping in my mouth as I chewed.
Before I realized it, half a chicken’s worth of bones lay in clean pile on the side of my plate. I knew I had to try to make this at home.
Waxman’s recipe has been easily available for a while. When I first looked it over, the old skepticism resurfaced: A warm water bath for the raw chicken? Cooked only under the broiler? Olive oil, no butter?
This negative thinking persisted as I fished slimy, raw chicken pieces out of warm, greasy water, trying with seemingly no success to dry them off with an excessive amount of paper towels. Due to my East Village broiler’s inadequacy, I could only start the chicken under the broiler and had to finish the pieces in the oven.
How did it turn out? The flesh was amazingly tender, juicy, and flavorful. The seasoned skin sang with succulence. Oh, swoon once more.
It was really, really fantastic.
Jonathan Waxman, I will never doubt you again.
1 3-4 pound chicken (preferably free-range, naturally raised, no antibiotics, no hormone, possibly kosher), cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and parsley — whatever you have available
How to prepare:
1. Preheat your oven to 425°.
2. Relax the flesh by soaking the chicken for 5 minutes in a large bowl filled with enough warm water to cover it. Drain and dry the pieces thoroughly with paper towels.
3. Heat the broiler. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer in a large cast-iron pan, skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil, season well with salt and pepper
4. Place the pan under the broiler, about 2 inches from the heat source, and cook until the skin is perfectly golden brown. Move the pan to the oven and continue to cook, roasting the chicken until the skin is really crispy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees. Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest while you make the herb butter sauce.
5. While the chicken is resting, melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat. When melted, stir in the chopped herbs, along with a little salt and pepper. Continue to slowly and gently heat the herbs until the butter has become infused with their flavors.
6. To serve, drizzle a spoonful of broken herb butter sauce over each piece of chicken. Serve right away.