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Recipe of the week: Thomas Keller’s low-tech chicken and potatoes

Chef Thomas Keller has moved in recent years to <em>sous-vide</em> cooking, but he prefers to make roast chicken the old-fashioned way.

Chef Thomas Keller knows how to make roast chicken perfectly, but “chooses not to,” said Andreas Viestad in The Washington Post. A man whose gastronomic empire ranges from the French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley to New York’s Per Se, Keller has moved in recent years to sous-vide (French for “under vacuum”) cooking. According to that method, as Keller outlined in his meticulous, demanding cookbook Under Pressure, the chicken would be vacuum-packed and heated in a low-temperature water bath for an hour and a half, until it reached “the perfect interior temperature.” Then it would be finished off in the oven.

But for Keller, roast chicken is “so loaded” with memories, from childhood to the present, that he prefers to make it the old-fashioned way. “It is comfort food, and I don’t want it to change.”

Recipe of the week
Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

For the chicken:
One 2-1/2- to 3-lb chicken, gizzard packet removed
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sweet paprika or chopped thyme leaves (optional)
2 to 4 tbsp salted or unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the potatoes:
5 to 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices, then pre-cooked in large sauté pan
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 1 sprig thyme
1 tbsp cold salted or unsalted butter, cut into very thin slices

For the chicken: Adjust middle oven rack so chicken will be situated in middle of oven as it roasts; preheat to 425 degrees. Rinse chicken; dry with paper towels inside and outside. Rub with generous amount of salt and pepper on inside and outside, plus paprika, if using. Rub with butter. For a more attractive result, truss legs with kitchen twine. Rub a little butter or canola oil on a roasting rack; place bird on it.

For the potatoes: Season partially cooked potatoes lightly with salt and pepper, and place them in small or medium ovenproof baking dish, arranging thyme leaves between slices. Place slices of butter over potatoes, if desired.

When ready to roast, place roasting rack with chicken directly on middle oven rack, with potatoes positioned directly below to catch chicken’s juices, making sure heat is not blocked from circulating under bird. Roast for 50 to 60 minutes, looking through oven window to make sure chicken does not burn. Test for doneness by piercing bird where leg is thickest. If juices run clear, chicken is done. If still pinkish, roast 10 minutes, check again. If potatoes are turning dry or becoming too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let chicken rest for 15 minutes before serving. Carve chicken; divide pieces, along with potatoes, among individual plates. If using thyme, season just before serving. Serve hot. Serves 2 to 3.

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