November 17, 2011

Roast Chicken

I've read tons of recipes for roast chicken. Most of them make it much more complicated than it needs to be.

Some recipes have you changing the oven temperature three times while cooking. Others recommend repeatedly basting your bird. Still other recipes have you flipping the chicken halfway through cooking to make sure the legs are fully cooked but the breast not overcooked. (I've tried this and believe me it's not easy to flip a hot, steaming chicken!)

Leave it to Ina Garten to come up with a roast chicken recipe that's straightforward and delicious. You put it in the oven and then walk away for an hour and a half. No basting, no fiddling with the oven temperature, and certainly no flipping.

The prep is pretty minimal. You brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter, then sprinkle on some salt and pepper. The cavity you stuff with aromatics. I'll be honest, I'm not convinced those flavors actually permeate the meat.

But oh my goodness, the heavenly smells of garlic, lemon and thyme mingled with the unmistakable, mouth-watering aroma of golden brown, crackling chicken skin! Who could possibly resist it?

I like to prepare all my ingredients before working with the raw chicken. First, prepare the aromatics. Slice the lemon and garlic in half and pull out a large bunch of fresh thyme.

I also put some salt and pepper in little prep bowls. That way, when I'm working with the raw chicken, I don't have to worry about contaminating my larger salt and pepper containers. Also melt some butter.

Wash the chicken, pat it dry, and don't forget to pull the bag of giblets out of the cavity!

Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the lemon, garlic and thyme into the cavity.

Brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over.

Tie the chicken legs together with some kitchen string.

Then tuck the wing tips under the body (you sort of twist them around under themselves until they look like the picture).

At this point your chicken will look entirely unappetizing. But in a few minutes, when the delicious smells start wafting out of your oven, you will forget how ugly your chicken looks right now.

Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, breast-side up. You'll know the breast side is up because the bottoms of the drumsticks will be pointing up at you. Save yourself some scrubbing and line the bottom of your roasting pan with aluminum foil.

Roast the chicken for about 1 1/2 hours. The best way to tell if the chicken is done is to take its temperature. Insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the leg. Once it reads 160 degrees F, it's done. This is how beautiful your chicken will look when it comes out of the oven.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board and cover it with aluminum foil for 15-20 minutes.

You can present the chicken whole, and carve it at the table.

 Or carve and then present it. 

Either way, you're in for a treat!

Perfect Roast Chicken

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter, melted

1.      Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2.      Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry.

3.      Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.

4.      Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.

5.      Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. (I also check that an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reads 160 degrees F.)

6.      Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve warm.

Serves 6


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