February 11, 2007

Roast Chicken Revisited

Delicious. Succulent. Juicy. Tender. And all the other adjectives you can think of to describe the perfect roast chicken. I’m not sure there are too many meals that make you feel as much like a domestic goddess as roasting a chicken. Your home fills with the incredible scent of chicken, vegetables, and herbs and you only had to spend about 15 minutes getting it ready.

One thing about such a simple meal is that everyone is constantly coming up with a way to improve it. You can roast it at a high heat for a short time or low heat for a long time. Maybe you cover the pan (which is more like braising, but, it would be juicy…) Do you I turn it over halfway through and what kind of special pan do I need? Do I bake it for 10 minutes at 450 degrees and knock it down to 350 for 45 more minutes and baste it every 10 minutes? You can see that after just 10 minutes of online recipe hunting, my head was foggy with methodology. Even once I decided what I would do, I was worried the whole time that my chosen method would lead me astray. When did this get so complicated?

I decided that I was going to stick with a true roasting method: about an hour at 375 degrees F. You know, I could have sworn I had a roasting pan with a v-rack, but I guess it was lost in the move, so after calming my heart palpitations with a little wine, I ventured on, certain that my plain old baking dish would ruin this chicken. You see, it’s been a few years since I’ve had a kitchen where I could roast a whole chicken – sad, but true.

So, as awkward as I felt going into this venture, I actually had a lot of fun. As naïve as this sounds, I enjoyed washing, seasoning and stuffing the bird because it was, well, so birdlike. I mean, it’s this little chicken body that you could play with and sing the can-can while it does high kicks and you can massage butter under its skin. Okay, now you all think I’m weird. The point is that I thought I would just tolerate dealing with the whole bird because it’s messy or it too much resembled the bird that it was, but it turns out that’s exactly what I enjoyed about it.

My chicken roasted up so nicely, just like all those adjectives listed above. It actually was easy (just like all those recipes tell you) and it doesn’t have to be such a scientific affair. I found a recipe that was really straightforward and produced a lovely chicken. In a nutshell, dress the chicken in any herbs you like, any citrus you like, an onion, and some butter or olive oil. You can’t really go wrong.

A Simple Roasted Chicken

1 (3-4 lb) whole chicken
3 Tbsp softened butter or olive oil
fresh thyme
1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges
1 small onion, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. After removing the packed of giblets, etc, tucked inside the cavity, rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water. Pat dry. Generously salt and pepper the inside cavity of the chicken. Stuff with a few onion and lemon wedges and whole sprigs of thyme.

Now make a choice: make a compound butter, or just do everything separately, it’s completely up to you. For the herb butter, mix some salt, pepper, lemon zest and thyme into the butter. Spread this mixture evenly over the whole bird and, most importantly, under the skin.

Alternately, spread some butter under the skin covering the breast meat, or rub olive oil all over the chicken. Pack a few fresh thyme leaves under the skin as well (don’t worry about being neat). Season all over with salt and pepper, even between the leg and thigh joint and don’t forget the other side of the chicken!

If you have a v-rack and roasting pan, that’s great. If you do not, use a 9x13 baking dish. Layer a few onion wedges on the bottom of the pan and place the chicken breast-side-down on top of them, so they act as a sort of stand. At this point, the chicken will not be in a very flattering position. That’s okay. Make sure there is a good amount of seasoning on the thighs and back.

Roast for 30 minutes and then turn the bird over so that the breast side is up. Return to the oven and roast 30 minutes more, or until a thermometer in the thigh reads 165 degrees. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest 15 minutes before carving. Enjoy!


Sarah said...

You forgot one very important ingredient...I'm a big garlic lover. I usually roast some garlic and mix it with the butter that I rub on the chicken...Otherwise your recipe is a exact dupilcate to mine! Yumm...

Helene said...

I roast my chicken the exact same way. Sometimes I start at 400 then lower the heat, but I pretty much season it, and hop in the oven. I love adding potatoes so that they can roast and soak up the juices (and grease).
Great appetizing picture!

Megan said...

Sarah - That sounds SO good! I did leave out the garlic but it's always a great addition. I will have to try roasting it some time!

Helene - Adding potatoes is a wonderful idea and reminds me so much of the poulet roti shops that line the streets in Paris with their potatoes lining the bottom to catch all that glorious fat! YUM! Thanks for your comment!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Great photo. Roast chicken is so easy and so good I could easily have this once a week. Good job.

Rebeca said...

There's nothing like a roast chicken. So comforting, tasty and endlessly versatile. This evening I just roasted it by stuffing a lemon in the cavity, and olive oil, salt and pepper on the skin. It has been too warm for a full roast today so I did it with a salad of parma ham, olives, mixed tomatoes (fresh and sun dried) and anchovies.