A Roast You Can Boast About
I remember this stupid commercial – Perdue, I think – where this woman is freaking out about the prospect of roasting a chicken. Jim Perdue came to the rescue (“My lucky stars!”) with a pre-seasoned chicken in a bag. My real issue with the commercial was that it furthered the misconception that roasting a chicken is a daunting task. Making a savory and deliciously moist chicken takes a few key steps, but the process itself is forgiving, adaptable and completely reasonable. If you take the time to learn how to do it, roasting a whole chicken will quickly become a part of your recipe repertoire.
For me, all of the special techniques involve flavoring the meat and keeping it moist during cooking. One of the easiest ways to inject flavor into a chicken is to brine it before roasting. Think back to your days in Chemistry and lessons on osmosis – a porous object placed in a saltwater bath takes in the salt water and expells the unsalted water that is contained inside of it. Same with the chicken – if you let it hang out in your fridge in some salty water, the seasoning will literally go all the way into the chicken. Better than just salting the skin and ending up with tasteless chicken. If you want to make the chicken without planning ahead, skip the brining and just make sure to follow the other two tricks below.
Another trick that helps to impart flavor is to rub the chicken with a compound butter. Simply mix softened butter with a combination of dried herbs and spices and then rub this under the chicken skin. The entire bird will come out cracklingly delicious on the outside, and expertly seasoned on the inside.
The last trick, which is not so new (actually, none of these techniques are new), is to cook the chicken breast-side down. When you roast a chicken, there is a competition between the white meat overdrying and the dark meat getting sufficient cooking time. In flipping the bird over, you are allowing the white meat to cook at the same pace as the dark meat, and also bathing the white meat in the yummy juices released by the dark meat. Best of all, the chicken cooks in less time and in a more failproof way. Win-win.
This recipe uses butter and herbes de provence, a savory herb mix of thyme, lavender, fennel seeds, savory, and other assorted dried goodness. You can, however, use whatever dried herbs suit your fancy and also replace the butter with olive oil. Treat the chicken to whatever freshness you have on hand and make it your own. After all, it’s not Jim Perdue’s stinkin’ chicken. It’s yours.
In my house, we can NEVER get through a whole chicken, so making this recipe begets several great meals – my favorite being soup made from homemade stock. College Inn has got nothing on a homemade stock, and it couldn’t be simpler to make. In finicky households where only the white meat is prized, save the dark meat for enchilada or empanada filling. You can also use the collected juices from the chicken to make lovely pan gravies. The bottom line is that the enjoyment of this roasted chicken can last you well after your first meal.
Enough jibba jabba! Let’s roast.
Whole Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Herbes de Provence
1 whole chicken
1/2 c. of kosher salt
5 bay leaves
1 stick of butter, softened
2 tsp. of herbes de provence
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of freshly cracked pepper
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
dash of paprika (for color)
1 lb. of mushrooms, wiped clean
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 c. of chicken broth
Add kosher salt, bay leaves and peppercorns to a large pot. Add about a cup or so of water and twirl it around to allow the salt to dissolve. Add the chicken to the pot and fill with cold water until the chicken is covered. Place in the fridge overnight.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Take your chicken out of the fridge and drain all the water. Pat your chicken super dry – it makes it easier for the compound butter to adhere to the meat. Set chicken aside and wash hands. Grab a small bowl and mix the butter, herbes de provence, salt, black pepper, white pepper and paprika. With the butter bowl and the chicken next to each other, gently separate the skin from the meat and rub the compound butter directly onto the meat. Rub the butter on the inside of the carcass. Use the bunch of thyme to scoop out the rest of the butter in the bowl. Toss the thyme into a roasting pan. Place chicken on top of the thyme, breast-side down, and scatter the mushrooms around the pan. Pour the chicken broth into the pan and place the entire thing into the oven.
Roast your chicken until it’s a lovely brown and the juices in the thickest part of the chicken run clear, about an hour and a half. Let the chicken sit for at least 5-7 minutes before carving. Slice away and stuff your face.
- Add the zest of one lemon to the compound butter.
- Use peeled and sliced shallots instead of the mushrooms. Or peeled cippolini onions.
- Use rosemary instead of thyme for your chicken’s herb bed.
- Add the zest of one orange, a tsp. of paprika and olive oil in place of butter. Replace the mushrooms with green olives and bell pepper, along with a few tablespoons of sherry.
- For crispy skin over the breast meat, flip the chicken over for the last 20 minutes of cooking.