The brined, roasted chicken is juicy, rich, and great on its own, but the jus, a concentrated homemade stock, is worth the effort. As for the birds, ask your butcher for two chickens, cut into four pieces each, reserving the carcasses to make the jus. Or buy leg quarters or airline breasts (first wing joint attached) and make the jus with the extra wings and backbones.
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 cups ice cubes
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 (4- to 5-lb.) whole chickens, cut into 4 pieces each (boneless breasts with first wing joint intact, legs whole with bone in, carcasses reserved)*
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add kosher salt and molasses. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes or until salt and molasses dissolve. Transfer to a very large bowl; add ice and next 4 ingredients. Let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until mixture cools to room temperature. Cover and chill 30 minutes to 1 hour or until cold.
Submerge chicken in cold brine. Cover and chill 6 to 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 400°. Remove chicken from brine; rinse and pat dry. Sprinkle with garlic salt.
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a 14-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 thyme sprig, and half of chicken. Cook 5 minutes or until skin is browned and crisp. (The molasses in the brine will brown the skin quickly.) Turn chicken and garlic, and cook 5 minutes or until browned. Remove chicken, and place on a wire rack in a jelly-roll pan. Wipe skillet clean. Repeat with remaining oil, chicken, garlic, and thyme.
Bake chicken, skin side up, at 400° for 10 to 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 165°. (Breasts will cook faster than legs, so check for doneness after 10 minutes.) Cover with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with Roasted Chicken Jus, if desired.
*8 chicken leg quarters or 8 chicken breasts, airline cut, may be substituted.