Last weekend I decided to do a little pre-Thanksgiving test of my new oven, so I thought I’d roast a chicken, just to see how the timing and the temperature of the oven worked. Surprisingly (it’s just a cheap rental apartment oven) it worked out pretty well. The skin was crisp, the thighs were juicy, and the breast wasn’t overdone. And with a simple preparation of fresh herbs and lemon, the flesh was delicately infused with flavor. It really didn’t need a gravy, but I made one anyway, and that, with some blanched broccoli tossed with balsamic dressing, was our dinner.
It’s a whole lot easier roasting a chicken in a real oven than it is in a little Chinese toaster oven, which is how I roasted chicken when we lived in China! And the chickens here are a whole lot plumper and juicier than the bony specimens we had to use there! I got a natural antibiotic-free chicken from Trader Joe’s, and it was nice and flavorful. I might make roasting chicken a part of my weekly routine, it’s so easy! In the time it takes to preheat the oven, you season and stuff the chicken, and after putting it in the oven, you hardly have to think about it, only I bet you will, because the luscious fragrance will permeate your home and set your stomach a-growlin’.
This would easily feed a family of four, with a salad and some garlic bread. Or, if like us, your family consists of you and your significant other, it stretches over several meals’ worth. The day after, I pulled the chicken meat off the bones and simmered it with tomato sauce, olives, garlic and red pepper flakes, which I tossed with penne for a hearty meal. And the rest of the carcass will go towards a big pot of stock. All this for $6.71!
Recently, I’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I had read them as a child, of course, but upon re-reading them, it’s really astonishing the amount of detail she goes into, in describing how they butchered the pig, made cheese, harvested maple sap to make maple sugar. It’s really quite inspiring to see how those first pioneers made use of literally EVERYTHING available to them. It makes me want to do the same. And although I don’t think I’ll ever butcher an entire pig, it makes me feel a little bit like I’m reducing waste by using all of this chicken =p.
Herb and Lemon Roasted Chicken
1 roasting chicken (about 6 pounds)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, whatever you’ve got)
5-6 sprigs of whole fresh herbs
1 onion, cut into chunks
1 large lemon or 2 small ones, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons melted butter
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Rinse the chicken and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Season inside of cavity with salt. Stuff with onion chunks, lemon wedges, and sprigs of fresh herbs. Place in roasting tray or cast-iron skillet.
2. Mix chopped herbs with melted butter. Using a pastry brush, paint herb-butter mixture over chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and fresh black pepper.
3. Bake chicken at 450F for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375F and continue baking for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes.
4. When done, chicken skin should be browned and crisp, and when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, the juices should run clear. Alternatively, a thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh should read 180F.
You can make a sauce with the pan drippings if you like. Spoon fat from pan drippings, saving 3 tablespoons and discarding the rest. In a skillet over medium heat, heat the chicken fat with 3 tbsp of flour to make a roux. Then add the rest of the pan drippings, a splash of white wine, and 1 cup of chicken broth. Stir and cook until thickened. Serve with chicken.