AL Roker shares his recipe for a perfect roasted chicken with crispy salty skin, a dish inspired by San Francisco's Zuni Cafe.
One to two days before serving, pat the chicken dry inside and out. Season the inside with a sprinkling of salt. In a bowl, mix together 1 generous tablespoon of salt with the chopped herbs, rubbing the herbs and salt together between your palms until the herbs begin to wilt. Rub this mixture over the entire outside of the chicken. Place the chicken in a shallow bowl or platter and cover loosely with a piece of parchment or waxed paper. Place in refrigerator for 1-2 days.
When ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator and grind fresh black pepper over the surface. Let it sit out about 30 minutes to take the chill off. Place a large cast-iron skillet in a cold oven and preheat to 425 degree F. About 10 minutes after the oven has reached temperature, put the chicken into the hot skillet breast-side-up and roast for 30 minutes. At this point, the skin should be browning nicely. Use tongs to carefully turn the chicken over so the breast side is down. Roast for another 20 minutes. Turn the chicken once more to breast-side-up and roast another 8-10 minutes to crisp the skin. (Check the skin for color and if getting too dark, reduce temperature to 350 degree F.)
Meanwhile, toss the onions in a bowl with some oil, salt and pepper. Remove skillet from oven and lift and tilt the chicken so the juices run into the skillet. Place chicken on a serving platter and set aside to rest, uncovered. Pour the onions into the roasting pan, adding a splash of white wine, broth or water, stirring together well. (If you turned the oven down while roasting the chicken, return to 425 degree F.) Roast onions for 10-12 minutes. Take a look and stir the onions well. If pan seems dry, add a bit more wine, broth or water. Return to oven until onions are soft and lightly browned, another 5-6 minutes.
Cut the chicken into pieces or carve the meat off the bone, giving each person some of the crispy, salty skin. Spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken and serve with onions on the side.