Serves 2 to 4
Brine and Roast
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 7 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup kosher salt, plus more to season
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup black peppercorns, toasted and roughly crushed, plus more to season
- 1 2 1/2-pound chicken
- 2 tablespoons rosemary-anchovy rub (ingredients below)
- 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon), or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black peppercorns, toasted
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1/2 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
- 1/2 garlic clove, finely grated
- 2 tablespoons anchovy paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- Kosher salt
Brine the chicken
With the broad side of a chef’s knife, press down on 1 bay leaf and 4 of the thyme sprigs to release their essential oils.
Place the water, salt, salt, sugar, lemon, peppercorns, and the pressed bay and thyme into a large nonreactive container. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken and make sure it is completely submerged. Cover and brine in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
Break down the chicken
Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse it under cold running water. Set the chicken on a work surface and thoroughly pat it dry with paper towels.
With the chicken on its back, take a leg and gently pull it toward you. Cut the skin between the leg and the breast, exposing the inner thigh. Gently but firmly force the thigh toward the back of the chicken, until the thigh bone pops out of the joint that connects it to the body. Repeat with the other thigh. With a sturdy knife or shears, cut the legs away at the thigh joint.
Turn the bird over and cut through the thin rib bones where they meet the back; this is the first step to freeing the breasts from the carcass. Put your hand in the cavity of the bird and hold the chicken down while you pull the breast back toward the neck; this should break the breast free. If necessary, cut it free near the neck and shoulders. Find the joint where the wings meet the drumettes with the tip of your knife and cut the wings free. At this point you should have 3 pieces: the whole breast and 2 legs. Save the carcass and wings for another use, like stock.
Make the rosemary-anchovy rub (makes about 1/2 cup, enough for 4 birds)
Place the peppercorns, parsley and rosemary in a mortar. Smash the mixture with a pestle until the peppercorns break into fine pieces. (Alternatively, blend the mixture in a spice grinder.) Transfer to a small bowl.
Stir the mustard, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, garlic, anchovy paste, and olive oil into the peppercorn mixture. Once a uniform paste is formed, season with salt if necessary. When stored, covered in the refrigerator, this rub holds 1 week.
Rub and dry the exterior
Pat the chicken dry once again. Once paper towels come away completely dry, lay the chicken on the work surface skin side up.
Smear the rub all over the skin until it’s evenly coated in a distinct layer; with rosemary-anchovy rub, I generally use about 2 tablespoons.
Place the rubbed chicken, skin side up, on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate the chicken for 12 to 24 hours, or until the rub dries and doesn’t smudge easily when prodded.
Roast the chicken
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Slick a large heavy pan, preferably cast iron, with 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil and set over medium heat. Place the handle at six o’clock. When the oil is shimmering-hot, lay the chicken breast, skin side down, in the pan, centering it with the pan’s handle and placing the thickest part of the breast toward the pan’s rim, so the tip of the breast points toward the pan’s center. Next, add the legs, skin side down, with the thighs down by the point of the breast; the drumsticks should point back toward the handle and the thick part of the breast. Press down slightly on all pieces so their skin is in maximum contact with the pan.
Increase the heat to medium-high and sear the chicken for 7 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. Without flipping the meat, transfer the pan to the oven and roast it for 17 minutes, or until the breast juices run clear and the drumsticks wiggle easily at their joints. When done, the meat should be 160 degrees at its thickest portion.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven and set it back over medium heat. Add the butter and remaining bay leaf and 3 thyme sprigs to the pan. As the butter begins to foam, protect your hand with a towel or an oven mitt and tip the pan slightly to pool the butter toward you. Use a spoon to baste the chicken all over in the foaming butter for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the butter browns. Make sure the butter does not blacken or it will taste acrid.
Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and place them, skin side up, on a cooling rack set over a large rimmed baking sheet. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes so the juices settle and skin crisps.
Carve the chicken
With a sharp, sturdy knife, cut through the breastbone lengthwise, separating the breast into 2 pieces. If you like, cut each breast piece in half crosswise as well. Next, break down the legs, separating the thighs from the drumsticks by opening the V between them and feeling for the joint with the tip of your knife. You should be able to cut through easily once you find it.
Transfer the chicken pieces to a warm serving platter, leaving their drippings behind. Pour all the drippings from the cutting board into a small mixing bowl, and add any accumulated juices from the roasting pan.