Great news for those who want a superlative chicken in every pot——or slow cooker, or braiser, or grill, or smoker, or wood-fired oven, as the case may be. Whole Foods has lowered their price on Mary’s Organic California Bronze Heritage Chicken from around 5 bucks a pound, to 3 something a pound. Yeah, that’s a 15 dollar chicken, but that is——by Gastrokid HQ’s assessment——the best danged whole chicken you can buy in a supermarket. And we happily (okay, a bit begrudgingly but still happily) paid 25 bucks for these things before we were pinching pennies.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of cooking and eating one of these chickens, trust us: they’re awesome. The kind of chicken you imagine they ate in Little House On The Prarie as a special treat. Upon several tries we have been beyond thrilled by the flavor, the unctuous texture, the sheer gorgeousness, the buttery, sweet, herbaceous, platonic-ideal of chicken flavor that these birds deliver time and again.
We’ve roasted them at 425-450 for around an hour, with little more than a generous rub of kosher salt and some herbs and citrus stuffed inside, and the results have been mind-blowing. Unctuous buttery-foie gras-like fat. Toothsome meat. Revelatory reclamation of an otherwise neglected and mistreated bird. Forget chicken as midweek humdrum default. Embrace it as weekly, or biweekly, culinary transcendence——plus leftovers.
I thought I was being simply romanced by the backstory, until a good friend recently bought and roasted one at my suggestion and loved it so much that she saved the fat, loving it too much to throw it away. (she’s got plans for it: maybe a chicken fat and egg omelette, she says, which sounds like it could once and forever prove it’s not a “which came first” but a “both together” philosophical position)
The other supercool thing about Mary’s California Bronze chickens is that, yep, they’re organic, but they also mature longer, hang out at the farm longer, take dust baths, peck about the yard, take a walk now and again. That is: they do things chickens long ago got to do on regular basis. Back in a time when a chicken was a special thing. A celebratory thing. A luxury. And a 15 dollar luxury is what we’re about these days. Especially if it’s this delicious. Yeah you’re paying more, but you’re getting way much more. And a well-raised chicken makes for well-prepared meals, and well-raised kids with a reference point about chicken that makes processed nuggets a pale comparison.
So once you get one, what do you do with it?
Preheat the oven to 450.
Salt the chicken all over with a couple or few tablespoons of kosher salt (you could put sage, thyme, a cut lemon or orange in their if you’d like. you can also pepper it, but seriously, none of that is necessary. the chicken is that good)
Put the chicken on a roasting rack in a pan (or try the Gastrokid improvised roasting rack made with forks, which keeps the bird from sitting in that lovely fat that renders from it. Keep the fat refrigerated and use it as you would butter.)
Roast the chicken for half an hour or so, until it gets a bit too smokey
Lower the oven to 425 and roast another 20-30 minutes until an instant read thermometer registers 160 in the thigh, and at least that in a couple of other places.
LET IT REST for a 12 minutes off heat and then serve it however you like.