Roast chicken is one of the easiest and most enjoyable meals I prepare. I don’t follow a set recipe, but have taken methods/ingredients I learned from Alice Waters and Ina Garten and combined them to make a version I love. For such a simple recipe, this is one time I will stress the importance of an organic bird, preferably one from a local farm or farmers’ market, if you have the option, or a butcher. Since the meat itself is the star, with accents but no sauce or strong flavors to get in the way, the best possible product you can start with is key. If you’re concerned about cost, think of how many meals you can get from one chicken and it is easy to justify buying a higher-quality bird. I won’t get too far into the details of why it’s really, really important to go organic with your chicken, but do it if you can!
I typically buy a 3-4 lb. whole chicken. Before touching the chicken– cleanliness is so important when you’re working with raw poultry!– peel an onion and slice it into thick pieces, cut a lemon in half and then quarter one half, and get out olive oil, a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and salt & pepper. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and get out a large pie plate, Dutch oven or roasting pan. When you have your other ingredients ready to go, remove anything in the cavity of the bird, rinse it thoroughly and pat it down with paper towels to remove the excess water. Drizzle a tablespoon or so of good olive oil across the breast and season the outside and inside (yes, the inside) generously with kosher salt and black pepper. It doesn’t hurt to rub the seasonings and oil into the meat a little– you can even get under the skin with a bit if you want. Spread the onions out in a layer in the bottom of your pan and place the chicken, breast-side up, on the onions. Put the lemon and rosemary into the cavity of the bird and truss the legs if you want (I don’t usually, but it does look pretty when you do). Roast for 20 mins. and then use some sturdy tongs to flip the chicken over so the breast is down; roast for 20 more mins. Flip the bird back to breast-side up and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, which will take another 15-20 mins. Here is the most important step: rest your chicken for 15 mins., not a second less, before cutting to allow the juices to distribute through the meat evenly. That’s it! My recipe for a delicious roast chicken.
You can absolutely play with this recipe to suit your preferences. Instead of lemon, you can go a more traditional route and use carrots and celery in the cavity. If you don’t care for rosemary, try sage or thyme instead. You can experiment with spices: chili powder, garlic powder, Chinese five spice, adobo seasoning and coriander have all found their way onto my chicken, in various quantities and combinations, based on what I’m in the mood for. Think about the seasonings in your favorite chicken dishes and have fun trying different things! Chicken is such a wonderful base for a variety of flavors, it’s hard to go wrong.
Another great part of roasting a chicken is the leftovers. You can have a wonderful sandwich or salad the next day, make a soup or casserole, enchiladas, curry, etc. For us, a 3-4 lb. chicken makes 3 full meals at least, and then my husband boils the carcass with celery, onion, carrots and bay leaf to make a stock that makes another 3-4 meals. It’s delicious, versatile, cost-effective and did I mention delicious? Your house will smell wonderful and your family will rave over your cooking. Roast chicken is one of the simplest, most perfect meals I know. Give it a try, and report back if you have a favorite spice or flavor combination you use on roast chicken– we would love to hear it!