You have seen it done with fish, but the Italians have a classic version with a whole chicken baked in a salt crust. I have seen many recipes with many traditional flavor accompaniments. My version is very pared down. In fact I have removed all the herbs and other seasoning except thyme, a little pepper and of course the salt. I think this allows the chicken to shine and taste so darn chicken‑y. Which is my biggest complaint about most roast or baked chicken recipes. Too much everything!
- 1 (3–4 pound) whole chicken
- 2 bunch fresh thyme
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 teaspoon water
- 8 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 cup coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- very good dijon mustard for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash and thoroughly dry the chicken inside and out. Place 1 bunch of thyme loosely strewn inside the cavity.
Mix the egg whites and water in a small bowl until very well combined. Finely chop the second bunch of thyme, leaves, stems and all, placing it into a large bowl followed by the flour, coarse salt, and egg whites. Thoroughly mix this all together, take your time it should not be clumpy. Try to get the mixture to move as freely as possible as you stir the bowl. Though small lumps are inevitable.
Oil the sides and bottom of a cast iron Dutch oven with lid. It should be large enough to hold the whole chicken with plenty of room at the top and sides. Oval shaped pots work nicely. Place the whole chicken inside and and cover it with the thyme infused salt. It’s okay if bits of the chicken peek out, or if you have to mound the mixture around the bird. Put the lid on the pot and bake for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. You may use an instant read thermometer to assist you in the timing. 160 degrees is often indicated as properly cooked. But use your judgment.