Choose the right bird
If your farmers' market doesn't sell poultry, order heirloom breeds from heritagefoodsusa.com or sustainably raised chickens from dartagnan.com. Or opt for air-chilled birds, which chefs prefer for their flavor and which are increasingly available at grocers like Whole Foods.
Prep the skin
To get crispy, brown skin—a highlight of the dish—bring the raw chicken to room temperature and pat dry with paper towels before roasting.
Nail the trussing
Tie the wings and legs close to the body with kitchen twine. If you don't know how, watch an online demo on chow.com. It's worth the effort, because a compact chicken cooks more evenly.
Experiment with herbs
The compound butter in this recipe (see below) adds flavor and helps keep the meat juicy, but you can swap in other fresh seasonings like thyme, oregano, and rosemary.
Make a sauce
After you've roasted the chicken, turn the drippings into a tasty gravy. Deglaze the pan with a little stock, bring it to a vigorous simmer, and scrape up the brown bits. When it's as thick as you like it, season and drizzle over the carved chicken when plating.
Put the leftovers to use
Once you've picked your bird clean, put the bones in a pot, cover them with water, and add cut vegetables like carrots and onions plus fresh herbs. Bring it to a boil, then gently simmer for a few hours. Strain the liquid and you've got homemade stock, the secret to better sauces and soups.
From Didier Elena, Alain Ducasse's longtime collaborator and chef at Adour, the temple of contemporary French food in New York City's St. Regis hotel, adour-stregis.com.
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 bunch chervil, chopped
1/2 branch tarragon, chopped
1/2 bunch chives, chopped
1/2 shallot, minced
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1/2 cup chicken stock
Preheat oven to 425° F. Fold herbs and shallot into softened butter and season. Loosen the skin of the chicken from the flesh and use fingers to spread butter over breasts, legs, and thighs under skin. Truss chicken. Butter a cast-iron skillet and place chicken on its side. Put dabs of butter in skillet and add garlic. Roast for 15 minutes, basting with butter.
Flip chicken to opposite side and roast another 15 minutes, basting frequently. Turn chicken onto its back, cut string around legs, and roast for another 30 minutes. Check the doneness by pricking legs with a fork (the juice should be clear) or by inserting a thermometer into legs (it should read 150° F). Transfer chicken to a cutting board, season, and let rest for 5 minutes. Make pan sauce (see above), top chicken with it, and serve.
Although mounting a chicken on a can of beer before roasting it works, that technique can't beat using this enameled cast-iron device. The pan's spike conducts heat through the center of the bird while its tray holds potatoes and other veggies and catches flavorful drippings. Plus you get to keep your Budweiser.
Vertical roaster by Staub, $150; williams-sonoma.com