I ran into my gorgeous friend, Cari at the grocery store tonight. She and I were discussing options for chicken dinners and when I told her I was making roast chicken, she admitted that she is completely baffled by roast chicken. I have found that this tends to be the case for many chicken-lovers.
A roast chicken can be somewhat intimidating. While it is a bit of a labor of love, a good roast chicken is true comfort food at its best.
Knowing how to make a good roast chicken is in every good cook’s repertoire. A few years ago I went through a phase where I set my mind on mastering the “perfect” roast chicken. I tried a million different recipes, all of which were versions of the same general idea: lemon, chicken, herbs, and either olive oil or butter.
After many attempts and hours of critically monitoring time, temperature and texture, I believe that I have come up with an easy and “full proof” roast chicken.
Now, I will warn those who are on a strict diet regimen that this chicken is made with butter. One whole stick of it. Please feel free to use olive oil instead of butter, or just use less butter, but I will warn you now, you won’t get the same decadent flavor or crispness from the chicken. I generally save this exquisite meal for company or a special occasion when the calories can be justified.
Here’s the cast:
This recipe, of course, also includes a bed of veggies under the chicken which makes for a delectable side dish. So, you’re kind of getting a two-for-one with this meal. Pair this with an arugula salad and you have a perfect Sunday night meal.
The first step is chopping up our veggies. Let’s start by chopping up the onion.
Then the carrots.
Then the celery. Make sure all the veggies are chopped about the same size.
Next, chop up at few cloves of garlic.
While you have the cutting board out, slice up a few lemons into wedges. Don’t even worry about the seeds.
For this dish, I love those small baby dutch potatoes. I find them with the potatoes at the grocery store. Wash about half the bag of potatoes.
In a roasting dish, put all the veggies with the garlic, potatoes and slices from one lemon.
Put a big pinch of Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and a few glugs of olive oil over the veggies.
Mix everything together so all the vegetables are coated with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
Using the rest of the garlic bulb, cut the entire thing in half crosswise. Set aside.
Now to make the butter. In a bowl, add the stick of softened butter. I know it seems like a lot but remember that you are flavoring an entire chicken.
To the butter, add a good pinch of Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and a good handful of thyme and chopped rosemary.
Mix the butter and herbs together. Set aside.
Now for the chicken part. FYI, the following photos are dedicated to my chicken-loving friend, Cari.
Wash your chicken and dry it very well with paper towels both inside and out. Sit the chicken cavity-side up on the veggies.
Generously salt and pepper the inside of the cavity.
Add the halved garlic bulb, a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary and as many lemon wedges as you can fit in the cavity.
Using a bit of butcher’s twine, tie the legs together tightly.
Generously salt and pepper the entire chicken, lifting up the chicken to make sure you get the bottom side.
Spread the butter and herb mixture all over the chicken. Using your fingers, open up the pocket between the breast meat and the skin and put at least a tablespoon of butter underneath each side. This is critical to making sure you get a juicy, delicious roast chicken.
Lastly, sprinkle some more fresh herbs around the vegetables and chicken.
I had exactly a 4 lb chicken. While oven’s vary, I cooked the chicken at 425 degrees for 1 hr and 15 minutes, and it came out perfectly. For best results, use a thermometer and place it between the leg and thigh. Cook the chicken until it reaches 165 degrees. You can also test if its done by running a knife between the leg and thigh. If the juices run clear, it’s done.
Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest under tented foil for 5 – 10 minutes so all the juices can get back into the chicken.
To carve the chicken, follow these instructions. This shows you the easiest most straight forward directions. It may take you a few tries, but keep practicing.
Serve with the roasted veggies and spoon the juices from the pan over the top of the chicken. Add a salad and voila.. a superb dinner!
1 – 3 1/2 to 4lb whole chicken.
3 lemons, sliced into wedges
3 carrots, diced
3 large celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 head garlic
1 stick good quality butter (I use Cabot)
1/2 bag of baby dutch potatoes, about 15 small potatoes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary (divided)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme (divided)
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
Dice the carrot, onion celery and two cloves of the garlic. Add the veggies to a roasting dish. Slice the lemons and add the slices from one lemon to the veggies. Rinse the potatoes and add them to the other vegetables and lemon. Sprinkle a large pinch of salt and pepper over the veggies and drizzle the olive oil. Mix the veggies.
Add the stick of butter, 1 tablespoon each of the rosemary and thyme and a large pinch of salt and pepper to a small bowl. Combine the butter with the herbs until all ingredients are mixed.
Wash and dry the chicken well. Place the chicken cavity side up on top of the veggies. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. Slice the remainder of the garlic in half, crosswise. Add the halved garlic, a few stalks of rosemary and thyme and the remainder of the lemons to the cavity (fit as many as possible). Using a bit of butcher’s twine, tightly tie the legs together so the cavity is secure.
Generously salt and pepper the outside of the chicken. Spread the butter mixture all over the chicken. Using your fingers, open up the pocket under the skin over the breast meat and spoon at least a tablespoon of butter under the skin. Move the butter under the skin with your fingers so it covers as much of the breast as possible.
Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Sprinkle the last tablespoon of rosemary and thyme around the veggies. Roast the chicken breast side up for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees.
Allow the chicken to rest under a foil tent for 5 -10 minutes. Carve the chicken and serve with the roasted veggies and pan juices.