Roast Chicken in a Salt Crust
4 cups of flour
2 cups of coarse grain salt
1 cup of water
Pepper Corns, lightly crushed
Rinse the inside and outside of the chicken with cold running water.
Make a mixture of 4 -5 chopped fresh sage leaves, ½ teaspoon of whole peppercorns lightly crushed, 3-4 juniper berries lightly crushed and rub this mixture on the inside cavity of the chicken. Truss the birdie so the legs are closed and tight to the body…virgin style. Now rub the chicken skin with a generous tablespoon of whole grain mustard. Decorate the chicken with some sage leaves.
Make the salt crust, which is a lot like making play doh. In a large bowl, add the flour and salt and mix together. Also add ½ teaspoon of pepper corns, 3-4 juniper berries and another 4 leaves of finely chopped sage, and mix this thoroughly. Now, make a well in the center of the flour/salt/spice mixture and start adding the water, whisking it in with a fork, and then kneading it with your hand. You are working towards having the mixture will come together in a soft, elastic dough ball, which you can then turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until you have a smooth, elastic, fun to play with dough, about 4-5 minutes. Not too soft and mushy, but pleasantly pliable. Now you will need to roll out the dough; you can roll it out on some parchment paper or plastic wrap or just use a pastry scraper to lift the dough from the board. The idea is that you are going to encase the chicken in this dough, I have a marble board, so its easy for me to just scrape it up with a pastry scraper; otherwise roll out your dough on something that you can lift up to surround the chicken. The dough should be about ½” thick and big enough that when you place the chicken in the center, you can bring up the sides to completely encase it. Don’t get too twitchy about the dough, you can patch any holes or gaps with the left over scraps of dough. Do try to be careful to fully encase the bird.
Bake in a 350 oven for 50 minutes, and then let the chicken rest in a warm place (not in the oven…maybe on the stove) for 20 minutes. It’s a good idea to pierce the crust and test the chicken with a thermometer to make sure its fully cooked after the resting period. It will continue cooking and steaming and this steam time is the secret to this incredibly soft, pillowy chicken.
Remove the crust, discard it…you shouldn’t be eating roasted play doh, and now serve this luscious bird!
It’s a very cool technique and I’m sure there are lots of variations out there waiting to be discovered. I want to try making it with a pierced lime or two inside the chicken, along with some chili paste and garlic.
Or maybe just a ton of garlic and parsley. Or some oranges and thyme. Have fun with it! Let me know how it turns out.