According to this post on Serious Eats, the roast chicken at Boston's Hamersley's Bistro "is probably the most well documented dish in the city." That makes me feel like a total loser, as I've never heard of it, never tried it, never experienced the poultry dish that Boston Magazine says is so popular that it makes up 20 to 30 percent of the dinner orders every night at the restaurant. This chicken is allegedly so in demand that even though the chef is totally over it, diners threaten to riot if he takes it off the menu.
|Image Source: Boston Globe|
Of course, for the sake of the blog, I had to try it. Unfortunately, the Snowpocalypse made it impossible to motivate to get out of the house. So I decided to try it out at home instead. I didn't have the actual recipe (which is available in Gordon Hamersley's Bistro Cooking at Home cookbook), but from various sources I cobbled together the method (wet rub, followed by a mid-temp roasting, and a final bit of crisping under the broiler) by which Hamersley's prepares its chicken and created my own riff on the recipe. While the chicken itself doesn't beat the one yielded by best chicken recipe of all time, the gravy produced by Hamersley's version is amazing: a gorgeous sauce that's garlicky, herby, mustardy, chickeny.
To make this riff on Hamersley's chicken, first prepare the wet rub/marinade. I finely minced a handful (five or six full sprigs) of fresh sage and a few sprigs of fresh tarragon. To these herbs, I added 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper, 3 tablespoons (or so) of olive oil, 1.5 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, zest from one lemon, 1.5 teaspoons of dried herbs de Provence, and about 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. You can use a food processor to process this to a paste, or kick it old school like me and use a mortar and pestle. The marinade should be sticky enough to adhere to the chicken but not too wet or oily.
Coat a small kosher chicken with the paste, slipping some of the marinade under the skin and in the cavities of the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours.
Roast the chicken for 1.5 hours (or until a meat thermometer registers 170 degrees) on a pan just barely big enough to fit the chicken. Wrap a full head of garlic in foil and roast it alongside the chicken. When the chicken is cooked, remove from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes. (This is crucial -- it allows the juices to be reabsorbed.)
Reserve pan juices in the roasting pan. Add about 1 cup of chicken broth and two or three tablespoons of lemon juice. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves into broth mixture. Whisk, stirring to loosen brown bits, and simmer until slightly thickened. Add about a teaspoon or so of cornstarch, stirring vigorously until the cornstarch is well incorporated and the gravy comes to a desirable consistency.
In the meantime, carve the chicken. Place the pieces skin-side up on a baking sheet under a broiler for a minute or so, until the skin is golden brown and crispy. Serve on a platter and spoon the gravy on top. Try to remember to take photos of it that aren't over-exposed and sucky. Devour. Lick the sauce from the platter. Talk knowingly about how "well documented" and "popular" the chicken is.