The wonderful aroma of a roasting chicken is a “comfort smell,” I believe, and is such a simple dinner that I blush to say that I don’t do it very often. All it takes is a little planning because it does take one and a half to two and a half hours to roast. Plus, there are usually leftovers that can be used for other dinners – such as Rice Bowls or Mediterranean Chicken (to be posted later – watch this space!)
I like to get about a 4 lb. whole fryer – preferably locally provided and/or free-range – and these can cost anywhere from .88/lb. to 1.99/lb., depending on specials and availability. I use a lot of rosemary when roasting my chicken – it adds to the flavor of the meat and it is one of my favorite “aroma-therapy” fragrances. I have a large rosemary bush in my yard that thrives on the benign neglect that I lavish upon it. I cut several branches to use as a “rack” to keep it off the bottom of my roasting dish and a few extra to stuff here and there in the chicken.
A small rant to begin: Why do they no longer put the nasty giblets and neck in a little bag? I hate trying to get those gooey things out!
The Pan: You will need a pan or dish with high sides that will fit your entire chicken – bits that hang over the edge will drip into your oven and could cause a fire. This equals “Not Good.” I have a nice oval-shaped Pyrex dish that is about 3 inches deep – 1.8 liters (almost 2 quarts). I always spray the dish with non-stick spray – we don’t have a dishwasher and it just makes for an easier clean-up.
Chicken Prep: Remove the chicken from it’s wrappings; remove and discard the giblets/neck (see rant above). Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water. Drain and pat dry the skin. Place in the pan, breast side up. As I said, I use rosemary branches as a rack to keep the chicken off the bottom of the pan, but you could use thyme branches (although it would take a lot!), celery ribs or carrot sticks instead. It keeps the chicken from swimming in the fat while it roasts (the backstroke, I believe). Using actual stuffing in a chicken is kind of an exercise in futility because you won’t have enough stuffing in the chicken to make more than 2 servings and it will be pretty greasy, so I usually shove a couple of rosemary branches in the cavity. I also loosen the breast skin, using “foo d scissors” to cut the membrane in the center so there is a nice “pocket” to stick a little more of the he rbs. I a lso use those handy “food scissors” to cut off the tail and fat flaps at the tail end of the chicken – every little bit h elps, right? Here are the “food scissors” that Pampered Chef carries (we have an earlier version that we use daily!) I drizzle a little olive oil over the bird and rub it around – an oil massage! – and then a little fresh-ground sea salt and pepper.
Roasting : I use my ancient Betty Crocker Cookbook’s roasting guide to determine oven temperature and total cooking time, but here is a link to an online guide that is exactly the same. The 4 lb. (or so) chicken I usually get takes about 2 hours at 375 degrees. Preheat your oven and have one of your racks centered. I don’t often tie the legs together – if I have the right kind of string, I will, but as long as the bird fits in the roasting dish, it’ll be fine. Check on your bird after an hour to make sure it isn’t over-browning – put some foil over it, if need be, and remove for the last 10 minutes. Can you smell that?!!? Is your mouth watering yet?!!? At the end of your cook time, you can check the internal temperature by inserting a meat thermometer into a thigh or breast – don’t let it hit bone – and seeing if it is 180 degrees or more. If the legs are all splayed out and real loose looking, you should be safe without checking the temperature. Let it rest outside of the oven for about 10 minutes before yelling, “Come for to eat!” Refrigerate left-overs.
My family descends like locusts on roast chicken, so I don’t have any photos of a chicken that I actually have touched, but I found this nice photo in Microsoft Clip Art – and it is surrounded by rosemary, so I figure it’s close enough!