By Mac Millhone
Many foodies say that you can tell good cooks by their roast chicken. There is no shortage of opinions on how to successfully roast a bird. I think I will add mine to the pile just the same. This recipe is beautiful, tastes great and is almost foolproof. You can make it your own by simply stuffing the bird very loosely with your choice of herbs, celery leaves or a few lemon slices.
My tool choice for this application is a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet. If granny did not give you one you should sooo go buy one. They are surprisingly reasonable and super useful.
There are divided opinions on whether you should wash chicken before cooking. I will remain silent on this and may “The Force” guide you. Please do follow normal poultry handling procedures regarding cross-contamination. You will want to remove excess fat and be sure to check inside the bird for spare parts. These are frequently found in a weird little bag. Washed or not, liberally salt both inside and outside. Use this bit of time to decide if you should truss or not. Trussing is as easy as tying the legs together and running the string forward to hold the wings down, finishing with a knot where the head used to be. “Why truss?” Well it seems that the bird cooks more evenly when tied and it looks better when put on the platter. There is no real need to truss, but if you choose to, do not forget to remove the string.
You will need:
1 3 to 4 pound chicken. Free range is nice. We will call it “her.”
parsley, thyme or tarragon to taste
salt and pepper
1/2 to 1 stick of butter. I use the whole thing.
Preheat oven to 400 F
Clean the chicken to your satisfaction. Salt and pepper her well inside and out. If you choose to, loosely stuff the cavity with a few herbs and or lemon slices. More is not better here. Truss if you like. Place chicken on the skillet resting on one side. Yes, she looks silly. Rest the stick of butter on top of her. You may have to balance a little. Slide her in the well preheated oven and roast for 15 minutes. With tongs, turn her to the opposite side. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn breast side down and roast for 15 minutes. Turn breast side up and roast for 25 minutes. Take the opportunity to baste when you make the turns. At this point the bird should be roasted and nicely browned. Remove from oven and give her a 10- to 20-minute rest. It is a good idea to check thigh temperature with an instant reading thermometer. This is another tool you need anyway, so if you don’t have one well, you know. Look for a temp of 165 to 170 F. The juices should run clear. If not, return to oven breast up for a few more minutes. Temperature will continue to climb as bird rests so check temp immediately after removal from oven.
Make a meal of it by roasting halved yellow or white potatoes quartered onions and trimmed carrots at the same time. I recommend a separate skillet or roasting pan. Salt, pepper and oil them lightly and add them to the oven when you make the first rotation at 15 minutes. Toss at least once when turning the bird. Veggies will require 45 to 50 minutes and should have some dark spots.
After resting, remove string if any and carve bird into serving size pieces. Squeeze fresh lemon juice all over the meat. Plate with veggies and serve the thin pan sauce on the side. Rich, yes and you will love it.
Try making your own applesauce on the stove top to go with. Gently cook three or four peeled and cored Braeburn apples with a little water and sugar. Add a teaspoon or two of ginger or cinnamon and finish with a tablespoon of cold butter. You will like the varied textures and it will go well with most anything.
Mac, a retired international airline Captain, now travels the world in search of great food. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org