News & Politics

Anatomy of a Dish: Roast Chicken at Poste

Robert Weland's take on the classic comfort food was created with one diner in mind--his Mom.

Ask Chef Rob Weland to talk about the most important dish on the menu at Poste, and he first talks about his mom. And not because he’s nostalgic for the comfort food of his childhood. “Whenever my mom went to restaurants, she’d always order the chicken to be polite,” says the shaggy-haired young chef. “It was usually the least expensive thing. I wouldn’t want her, or someone like her, to be disappointed.”

So while Weland is painstaking with all his creations—including a beef tartare with house-made brioche and a lusty braised rabbit with poppy-seed tagliatelle—he makes sure his roasted chicken receives extra attention to detail.

Weland’s bird of choice is a three-pound, organically raised free-ranger from Eberly Poultry, which buys from Amish farms in Pennsylvania. The leaner chickens, he says, “taste more like the really fresh chicken I had when I was working as a cook in France.”

Every cook has his own way of roasting a chicken. Weland’s takes time. He starts one, sometimes two, days in advance, cutting up the birds and letting them soak in a brine—water, sugar, salt, thyme, bay leaf, and whatever herbs are poking up in his garden—which keeps the meat from drying out. When he’s ready to cook, he pan-roasts a breast and thigh to caramelize the skin. Then he pulls an old Italian trick known as the “brick method,” though instead of a brick, he sets another pan atop the chicken—the weight causes the fat beneath the skin to render, moistening the meat—and slips it in a 400-degree convection oven for 15 minutes.

The result of these tricks is a dish so simple and delicious—burnished, crackling skin concealing tender, rosy meat—and, at $19, so affordable that even a picky mom could love it.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.