Will Never Let You Down!
"A good roast chicken will never let you down," grandmother told me. To this day, it's the easiest dinner I know. The aromas -- sizzling onions, carrots, thyme and garlic -- stir up hungers while the chicken does its thing, unattended, and you're free to go about your business. Yesterday, I slathered a nice fat roaster with butter, salt and pepper, shoved it in the oven and took off for two hours. When I got home, dinner was done. It felt as though my dear grandmother had snuck into my kitchen and left me a gift. To complete the meal, I tossed a salad, sliced some crusty bread, and poured a little wine in the bottom of the pan for a velvety sauce, then we finished the rest of the bottle when we all sat down.
The only thing you really need to know about roasting chicken is to pick the best bird. Look for a "roaster", a chicken that weighs in around 5 to 7 pounds; larger than a broiler or fryer, that weighs in less than 6 pounds (usually between 3 and 4). The older the chicken, the more flavor it will have, and the firmer its meat is likely to be. Look for free range chickens that have spent most of their lives outside pecking and scratching bugs, grass and kitchen scraps in the sun. I won't detail the horrors that chickens suffer on conventional farms. (If you are reading this, you probably already know). Just remember that all chickens are not raised the same. Without getting too detailed, if you're not buying directly from a farmer at market, look for chickens labeled "Certified Humane Organic." These free range birds are also higher in Omega-3's and CLA and lower in cholesterol.
This fall, I keep going back to the things I know like this trusty roast chicken and my grandmother's wisdom ... "Keep it simple: as simple as possible, but no simpler," she once told me (and she told Einstein that, as well).
Serves 4 to 6
1 big roasting chicken, about 5 to 7 pounds
3 to 4 tablespoons softened butter
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
bunch of parsley
several sprigs fresh thyme
1 onion thickly sliced
3 to 4 whole carrots
2 ribs celery
4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup wine or water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the chicken thoroughly then pat dry. Rub the butter all over the chicken and work some under the skin of the breast. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the parsley and thyme. Put the onion, carrots, celery and garlic in a roasting pan and set the chicken on top. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue roasting until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Remove the chicken and allow to rest. Discard the vegetables and herbs. Pour the wine into the roasting pan and set on top of the stove. Scrape up any of the brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the juices and the wine form a thick sauce.
Carve the chicken and serve drizzled with the pan juices.