Most famous for the impeccable seafood he serves at his New York stalwart, Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert also knows a thing or two about roasting a chicken. In his new cookbook, Avec Eric, the chef draws on memories of his boyhood in France as well as his instincts for inventive flavor combinations for a roast chicken recipe that will become your new standard. It's the addition of za'atar--the Middle Eastern spice blend anchored by the astringency of sumac--that takes this bird to another level. Its essence perfumes the meat and infuses the pan juices to create a meal that's somehow nostalgic and exotic at once.
Roasted Chicken with Za'atar Stuffing
Recipe adapted from Avec Eric by Eric Ripert (Wiley)
Yield: 4 servings
1 chicken (approximately 4 pounds)
½ baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1½ cups)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic, plus 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, divided
2 teaspoons za'atar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Remove the wings and reserve.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the bread, parsley, minced garlic, za'atar and lemon zest and toss with ¼ cup of the olive oil to coat evenly. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper and fill with the stuffing. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Season the bird on the outside with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
3. Place the reserved chicken wings in the center of a roasting pan and set the chicken on top of the wings. Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and add the garlic cloves to the pan. Continue roasting for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the leg is pierced. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.
4. Place 2 slices each of breast and leg meat on each plate and spoon some of the stuffing alongside. Spoon some of the pan drippings over the chicken and serve immediately.