Chicken Roasted In A Simple Crust

It's getting cool out there. Time to bundle up your chickens.

Oh look; it's Autumn.

Time to turn up your collar, kick a pile of leaves and make languorous Sunday dinners that fill the house with warm, happy smells.

And it's time to bulk up what we're cooking. No more very-very-end-of-season tomatoes. It's time for big, slow roasts. It's sweater weather for chickens.

Rolling the dough | Cutting a cross

At the first cold snap, Tasting Table's executive chef Brendan McHale likes to roast a chicken encased in homemade puff-like pastry dough into which he's folded finely chopped herbs (see the recipe).

Why wrap up your bird?

"You're sealing in flavor. You've got the nice aroma of the herbs and this crisp shell that soaks up all the chicken jus," says McHale, who first encountered the technique years ago working in Boston at Barbara Lynch's The Butcher Shop.  "It tastes like a whole roasted chicken pot pie."

How to truss a chicken

Are there variations? Yes, many. McHale suggests filling the bird's cavity with porcinis or chestnuts or a classic stuffing with smoky bacon or substituting a bit of truffle butter in the pastry dough. Whatever you do, encasing the bird in dough is going to enhance the flavor and help avoid dry meat.

"The cooking time doesn't really vary much," McHale says. "You're steaming inside the dough. That infrastructure is really supporting flavor and moisture."

Enclosing the chicken in the dough

The dough itself is a snap. It's not a fussy laminated puff with a million buttery layers. Just whiz it in the food processor, work it in your hands a bit and you're done.

"The French wrap everything in pastry," McHale says approvingly. "They know what they're doing."