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Whole Roast Chicken with Herbs and Lemon

March 12, 2009

Chicken!

As some of you may know, we have recently become obsessed with the idea of roasting an entire chicken (okay, not the whole thing–there’s no head or feet!).  We did this before using a combination of Alice Waters‘ recipe for roast chicken in her The Art of Simple Food cookbook and America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Both of these are such wonderful cookbooks instructing clueless cooks like us how to do all the right things, where it’s okay to make substitutions, and when one should definitely stick to the recipe.

Needless to say, we thought our first whole roast chicken was a success–moist and golden just like it should be. Unfortunately, that was pre-food blog so we don’t have detailed documentation. Note: We had company that night and were actually vain enough to take pictures of our food but not the company. Now you see why we started a food blog.

After having been successful with our two favorite cookbooks with their very plain instructions, I was a bit skeptical of a recipe for roast chicken in this month’s (well really April’s) issue of Bon Appetit. This is probably the easiest recipe I have ever seen in Bon Appetit.  Usually there are so many steps and ingredients I don’t feel like purchasing, but then BOOM, there was this recipe and we gave it a chance.

Though we adhered to the ingredients, the seasoning, and the stuffing, we strayed in other respects. We followed a tip from Alice Waters  and seasoned the chicken two days in advance, wrapped it up, and put it in the fridge.  Last time we only managed a day in advance.  Also, according to her recipe, we baked the chicken for an hour and twenty minutes at 375°, flipping the chicken every thirty minutes. This helps the heat circulate through the entire chicken, and lets both sides sit in the excess oils and fats collected at the bottom of the baking dish. To get the golden color and slightly crunchy skin, we followed America’s Test Kitchen’s advice to turn the heat up to 425° for the last twenty minutes.  The end result?  A beauty (though it may not be perfectly photogenic due to our poor lighting conditions) which tasted even juicier, herbier, and chickenish than its predecessor.

One other thing to note is that this time around we used an organic chicken.  We couldn’t find both a grass-fed and organic free-range chicken, so had to settle for just organic free-range at the frighteningly high cost of $16 plus for a 4.13 lb chicken. I don’t know where you buy your chicken, but this seemed like quite a lot to me, especially when compared to the $7 we paid last time for just a grain-fed free-range chicken of about the same size.  We’re not sure how much the organic factor contributed to the chicken being so delicious–there was also the longer salting which Alice Waters says really adds to the flavor. Still, we have been able to split this chicken up between six servings of either lunch or dinner and plan to use the bones and innards to make stock this weekend.  Is it worth it? We think so, but when times get tighter, who knows…

All we can say right now is that there is an immense satisfaction we get from roasting a whole chicken.  We are both so proud of ourselves and so excited when cutting it to see if it’s ready.  I also like thinking that this is one step towards roasting a turkey, which makes me think of someday hosting Thanksgiving, my absolute favorite holiday, for my family and friends.  More than a lot of other foods, roasting a whole bird seems to bring out the sense of family and community inherent in food. We hope you find this too the next time you take on a chicken, turkey, duck, oh my!

– Rhi

Roast Chicken!

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