HERB & SALT CRUST BAKED CHICKEN
by Stefan Gates
This recipe has magic and drama in spades. It's amazing to see a whole chicken arrive at the table encased in an armor of herbs and salt and to smell the intensity of the flavors as they burst forth when you crack it open. The salt crust acts as a seal, keeping the flavorings close to the skin as the chicken steams within. You'll need to throw all the salt away once the bird is cooked—and do be careful as you crack the crust open so the salt doesn't mix too much with the meat. Bear in mind that you won't get any useable juices from the chicken when it's cooked in this way.
• 3½ lb free-range chicken
• 2¼ lb coarse salt or rock salt
• 1 lemon, zested, juiced, and rinds reserved
• a large handful of rosemary leaves, chopped
• 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
• 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• 4 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rinse the chicken, but leave it trussed, and pat dry. In a large bowl, mix the salt together with the lemon zest and juice and half the rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Add just enough water to make it damp—it should have the consistency of seaside-castle-building sand.
Push the lemon rinds into the chicken cavity, ensuring that you close it up afterward. Line a roasting pan with foil, then lay a bed of salt, using about a quarter of what's in your bowl, over its base. Place the bay leaves on the salt, then put the chicken on top. Scatter the remaining herbs and garlic on top of the chicken, and then pack the rest of the salt around it until it's well covered. Cover everything with another layer of foil.
Bake for 1½ hours, then remove the pan from the oven and carefully peel back the foil. Bring the pan to the table and break open the salt crust to reveal the chicken inside. Break off and discard all the salt, then carve the chicken and serve with potatoes and vegetables and perhaps a lemony/ garlicky gravy.