This post is for all my friends who long to make a really delicious dinner for their family or friends, with almost no effort. Roast chicken is my absolute favorite dinner to bring to friends when they have just welcomed a new baby, or are recovering from sickness or surgery. We all have very busy lives chasing our kids around and keeping up with their schedules, so I don’t have time to make an elaborate meal either. But a roast chicken is ideal because it has a fast preparation, and the results couldn’t be better if you slaved all day. That’s my kind of cooking.
Sadly, we live in a “boneless, skinless” culture, and whole animal carcasses are a little (or a lot) overwhelming to an inexperienced cook. But bones and fat deliver what boneless-skinless can’t… FLAVOR. All you need is a little courage — buck up! Look that carcass in the eye (if they are still intact), and say to it: “this is the best thing that could ever happen to you!” What results in this case is the most amazing aroma of roasting chicken with herbs, citrus, and maybe some potatoes. Serve it hot with a fresh baguette, a green salad, and a nice Syrah, or cold with olives, cheese, bread and a bottle of bubbly for a decadent picnic.
Roast Chicken with Herbs & Citrus
recipe inspiration: every delicious chicken I’ve eaten while living in and traveling the “Old World”
Note: serves 2 adults and 2 children (if you are us, and we love to eat)! Feel free to mix up the citrus and herbs. Use orange wedges instead of lemon, throw in some rosemary, fresh lavender from the garden, and even some yellow onion slices are nice if you are in the mood.
- 1 lemon, quartered lengthwise
- 1 small handful fresh Italian parsley
- 1 small handful fresh thyme sprigs
- one 3 to 3 and 1/2 lb. chicken, organs removed
- lots of kosher salt
- fresh ground pepper
- kitchen string for trussing
- optional: small potatoes for roasting (new potatoes, red potatoes, fingerlings all work well), and Brussels sprouts roast nicely with potatoes if you are so inclined.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Stand the chicken on it’s shoulders (with the last part over the fence facing up) and sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper into the cavity, making sure you cover the inner surface area well.
- Place the chicken breast side up, and stuff the cavity with the lemon quarters, squeezing them a bit as you stuff them in, to release a little juice.
- Stuff the cavity with the fresh herbs, so that they are not falling out the tail-end, and cover the opening with the fatty flap of skin that is at the end of the chicken.
- Now with your kitchen string, truss the chicken. Don’t panic, most butchers sell the chicken with its wings tucked under it, so there’s not a need to do REAL trussing, but you do want to tie the legs together to keep the cooking more even and to keep the citrus and herbs intact. An easy trick, using one end of the string, wrap it around one leg (at the drummy-handle, so to speak), and then make a figure eight with the string around the other leg, and then tie a knot with the string back in the center between the two legs, so they are touching and tightly connected.
- Place chicken in a roasting pan on a rack, but if you don’t have a rack, no big deal. Salt and pepper the back of the chicken (the part that lies flat on the pan), and then lay it back in the pan. Then generously salt and pepper the top of the chicken (breast side up), using your hands to quickly press the salt and pepper into the skin.
- If you want to roast new potatoes or fingerlings (and Brussels sprouts) with the chicken, toss them in regular olive oil, give them a generous sprinkling of coarse kosher salt, and surround the chicken with the potatoes in the roasting pan.
- Roast uncovered until internal breast temperature is 160°F, which is about 15-20 minutes per pound, depending on your elevation. I usually get chickens which are just over three pounds but not quite 3.5 lbs, and I roast them for an hour and 15 minutes, and they come out perfectly.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and let it stand, in its pan, for 15 minutes before carving. This ensures the juices are retained, and makes for a very moist chicken meat.
- Carve on a large cutting board and serve to your hungry guests!