Roast chicken, though a simple and humble dish, the epitome of comfort food, isn’t always so simple, humble, or comfortable to prepare. There are so many “recipes”, there is so much advice thrown around, and even traditions (that often fail to produce anything really remarkable except for the fact of preservation) that people get stuck in when making a roast chicken that often perfection is lost.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a rebel (especially in the kitchen). It’s hard to admit (especially out loud) that nana’s chicken just doesn’t do it for me, or that Martha has let the public down, yet again (poor Martha). It’s frustrating that the “Masters”, Williams-Sonoma and Gourmet often offer recipes that are so involved and so demanding that the simplicity, part of the appeal of roast chicken, is lost altogether. In fact, Williams-Sonoma offers an entire book on chicken that includes numerous differing recipes – and what does that tell ya? What it tells me is that even the “Masters” can’t settle on one, which may indicate that none are quite good enough, none are just right, none are the perfect roast chicken.
Well, after going through the motions, testing recipes, tweaking here and there, killing myself with numerous steps in some recipes, and wondering how just throwing a bird straight from the fridge into a hot oven and walking away for an hour or more is going to work out, I do believe I have found the perfect roast chicken, for us. We served this to Cita on Mother’s Day, and she too agreed, amazing.
This gives you a bird that is both crispy (skin) and succulent (meat), is easy to execute, but does involve some level of preparation so you can at least feel like you had some small part in the perfect creation, and uses ingredients found at any supermarket (so no searching aisles of Asian specialty stores for kiffir lime leaves or a special Himalayan sea salt).
Now, it’ll feel strange, almost like you’re violating one who died for your sins – no wait, that’s Jesus – I digress – while preparing your de-feathered friend (who did, in fact, die for you). Don’t think too much about it, just jam the stuff up there, take a deep breath, and feel good about giving him a butter massage – he’ll like it, and you will too, in less than 2 hours.
Perfect Roast Chicken
adapted from Ina Garten
1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
freshly ground black pepper
10+ sprigs fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 large bulb garlic, halved crosswise (do not peel)
2 tablespoons butter, soft
1 large onion, halved then sliced thinly
1 lb carrots, unpeeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Rinse the chicken inside and out.
Pat the inside and outside of the chicken as dry as you can with paper towels. Removing the moisture now helps keep your bird from steaming, and makes for that crispy, golden skin.
Generously salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.
Stuff the cavity with the lemon halves, thyme, and garlic bulb halves (finish with a lemon half).
Now take your soft butter and literally massage your chicken with it. Work it in and around.
Season with salt and pepper.
Place the onions and carrots in a roasting pan (I use a ceramic 9×13 dish).
Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and sprigs of thyme.
Spread evenly around the bottom of the pan and place the chicken on top.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear between leg and thigh.
Remove to a platter and cover with foil to rest for about 20 minutes.